ARAPACIS – Waterdog

Arapacis 2021

Fables of force, folly and other folk tropes as told by a troupe of Montrealer troubadours who progressively move towards doom and gloom.

ARAPACIS –
Waterdog

From 2003 on, this Canadian coven have been brewing an intoxicating mixture of highbrow art-rock and histrionic black metal – the genres that are customarily devoid of smiles, yet axeman Jerry Fielden always managed to paint a devilish grin on the most grim of his ensemble’s pieces. The bloodcurdling warmth which informs their chilly screamadelica became even more comfortable since the band introduced Michelle Macpherson, the leader’s lady, as a principal singer, and “Waterdog” may feel like the creative duo’s best extramarital affair – especially when there’s finally a full line-up, the quintet first appearing on “Déjà Hard” in 2020, and the group’s ivories driver is David Stone who used to serve in RAINBOW.

It’s quite a nervous, stressful endeavor, highlighting different aspects of hero-centric lore – light, dark and all the shades between these two extremes – as sharp-edged vocals vie for sonic space with heavy riffs, and organ passages steamroll the swagger-rocking numbers such as the violin-spiked “The Champ” where Fielden’s six-string filigree explores folk motifs. This traditional layer of ARAPACIS’ approach will drift to the fore on “Breach Of The Humanoids” and “Elliptical Choice” – respectively, a baroque-tinctured terror serenade and the album’s finale that sculpts instrumental wonder around Macpherson’s often-detached voice – but the Eastern flavor permeating the solemn, surging and flowing, surface of “Return Of The Light” and the Gillanisms on the slow boogie of “Back At The Gate” spice up the entire musical elixir.

Once assault has abated, the adventurous “Pallor Rider” is bound to reveal sublime, albeit not too soft, balladry set against aural rage and rippled by Jean Audet’s elastic bass, the machine-gun shooting through the piano-encrusted “Groovaquan” – a robust, if somewhat rusty, track of considerable depth. It’s something that “The Mold” doesn’t display before guitar harmonies come unfolded – and something that’s frequently hidden beneath the band’s indecisiveness with regards to stylistic denomination: the sooner the Quebecoise combo define their own manner the better they’ll appeal to the masses.

***4/5

April 17, 2021

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