Arcanum Sanctum - Ad Astra
Self released
Progressive Melodic Death Metal
8 songs (32'24")
Release year: 2020
Reviewed by Alex

I could make this review fairly short. Another Arcanum Sanctum album, another Latin name, another 30+ min of quality melodic death music. If I stopped here, you may probably get an idea, but I would be unfair, both to the band and to a few readers who sample my writings. The reason Ad Astra needs a lot more detailed explanation, if you are familiar with Fidus Achates or Veritas Odium Parit, two earlier albums by this band from Russian Far East, it is a very different experience.

Perhaps beginning both opening tracks with thoughtful acoustic intros could serve as a giveaway, but it seems that Arcanum Sanctum has undergone a transformation. Aggressive melodic death/thrash of Fidus Achates started being more introspective on Veritas Odium Parit with the band now completing their makeover to progressive melodic death metal. Whatever reminded me of Children of Bodom a decade ago, now sounds a lot more like Dark Tranquillity, Lothlorien or Lahmia. Perhaps the band’s favorite subject, science fiction, prompted them to move into this direction, but the whole half hour has a feeling of space exploration and bold human adventure.

Wanderers in Space, with its acoustic, and then bass line and guitar lead, is a launch pad, fitting with the subject matter and fantastic cover art. What follows the rest of the way is definitely not breakneck riffing, but instead intricate melodic weave (Pack Rat). Out is a lot of aggression and in is a lot of depth. You can call compositions like Pack Rat and Down to Earth dark and introspective, but they are definitely not gloomy, and in fact somewhat hopeful in spirit. The title track is stately, beautifully melodic, expansive and dreamy, yet also positive in its disposition. I suppose you have to have a modicum (or even more than that) of optimism in order to embark on cosmic voyages. Some aggression does return in Solaris and final Under the Alien Sky, yet closing church organ of Solaris and final astral dream with moody keys in Under the Alien Sky temper things again. You can detect some Dark Tranquillity similarities in piano touches and rhythmic riffing variations of A Perfect Place (to Hide) and darker double bass moments of Down to Earh, but never is Ad Astra a copycat or formulaic. The music is obviously of very personal character for the band and it shows that they are deeply invested.

Another big change in Arcanum Sanctum delivery is vocals. There is double layered deep throaty and a bit higher in register extreme vocals, but it is grounded, powerful and rather legible. Vadim Nalivaiko, the band’s guitarist and mastermind, has apparently relinquished his leading role, which was mostly drowning onto himself Alexi Laiho-like barks. Perhaps he is a backing vocalist now, whereas Ivan Beschastny is now more established, more experienced Arcanum Sanctum leading man. In his interpretation the cleaner opening of Down to Earth makes the song sound almost like a Sentenced moment.

You can call Ad Astra a maturation moment for the band, or a significant direction switch, but it is very obvious the album swung for completely different fences, the mood heretofore not detected (by me anyway) on previous Arcanum Sanctum albums. I enjoyed Ad Astra quite a bit, and wished it was longer. Yet it is Arcanum Sanctum, so proceedings tend to be succinct and to the point.

Killing Songs :
Pack Rat, Ad Astra, A Perfect Place (to Hide)
Alex quoted 88 / 100
Other albums by Arcanum Sanctum that we have reviewed:
Arcanum Sanctum - Veritas Odium Parit reviewed by Alex and quoted 85 / 100
Arcanum Sanctum - Fidus Achates reviewed by Alex and quoted 85 / 100
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