Arcane Roots - Nottingham Rock City
Tortuously cathartic, spellbinding and immersive: Arcane Roots thrill another sold out crowd on their UK tour
Words: Phil Weller | Photos: Anthony Firmin
There may only be three members in Arcane Roots but they have enough gear to satisfy an army of tech nerds. Spurned on by Andrew Groves purchase of an analogue synthesizer, a gift for himself on his 28th birthday, new album Melancholia Hymns flaunts a band of fearless ambition and boundless imagination. The additions of swathing synths and lush orchestrations have seen the band evolve and before yet another sold out venue on this UK tour, the band produced a spellbinding set with which their overindulgence in gear was gloriously justified.
From the spacious yet dark and rising opener Matter, a song awash with swirling synths and glitching electronic drums, through to the impassioned and lofty If Nothing Breaks, Nothing Moves tonight is total immersion. Swelling sounds and whirling notes blur the lines between songs, making the entire set one huge movement that drags you along with its arresting tide. Backed by their own light show, which varies between frantic strobes and soft, atmospheric colours throughout, you aren’t just watching a three blokes play a few songs here. This is a show in every detail, this has been carefully, painstakingly mapped out, every second, every moment made to toy with your emotions and melt away the torrential rain-infested world outside of the packed out Rock City Basement for the hour or so they play. Chills shiver down your spine, hairs rise, your heart churns.
Main support Fizzy Blood had done all they could to try and steal the show – or at least steal a few fans – and while their Queens Of The Stone Age meets Turbowolf vibes, marked by whalloping riffs and plenty of shouting, it is great fun, yet nothing could truly stand up to the masterclass that Arcane Roots produced tonight.
Andrew Groves, hopping between his synth and road-worn Stratocaster, the paint long since stripped in large parts from sweat and passion, cuts a stunning figure in the lighting. His multi-octave range is in fine fettle; his performance on the whole a heady mix of raw emotion and musical astuteness. He leads the band through the roaring Meshuggah-isms that bring Matter to its animalistic and explosive climax. Slow and Sacred Shapes, taken off their 2013 album Blood & Chemistry, then ramp up the energy yet further through twisting, off-kilter riffs and sharp, mathematic drums. But seven years on from their release, the band have begun to warp them, taking the songs along for the ride with them as they travel down the roads of their new synth-lavished direction. Slow is iced by an unexpected drop in dynamics, the gritty guitar momentarily swapped for tinkling piano and a drop in tempo. It’s clever, dynamic and helps make their peaks dizzyingly taller and their troughs more vulnerable and touching.
Off The Floor, one of the standout tracks on Melancholia Hymns, an impressive and immersive album in itself, quickly followed by the deftly juxtaposed light and dark soundscapes of Slow Dance sees the crowd in full voice and the band with their foot pressed down hard on the accelerator. The result is earth-shattering, the place ignites and there is a tangible something in the air, something special, something magic.
Ten years into their career they are producing music that could only have been written by a band with heaps of experience under their belt, benefiting from both the trials and the tribulations of experimentation in that time. Their songs reflect that; they wear their bruises like war wounds, the sorrowful Curtains and the gorgeous, painfully melodic Indigo produce reflections of dark moments in their lives and it makes for a powerful watch.
Then the lights come on, the bar staff begin closing down the bar, roadies begin to disassemble the mountains of on-stage gear and you snap back into reality, freed from their spell. They could have played for another hour and the room would have lapped it up, but instead they leave a taste for more salivating in people’s mouths. They’re addictive. With this album the band have ascended to another level and after all the hard work to get this far, don’t expect them go anywhere for a long while yet. Arcane Roots are one of Britain’s most creative and individualistic exports right now and you feel time, with all its bruising tragedies and bright, uplifting highs, will only inspire them to write yet more spellbinding music.