Arcane Roots

Oran Mor


ARCANE Roots are delightfully confusing.

There are times when their vocal and guitar explosions have all the hallmarks of screaming death metal. There are times when they bring it all down and ditch a lead guitar altogether and there's a tender synth, bass and quivering falsetto.

There are times when it is Biffy Clyro force fed Soundgarden, Mastadon and Lamb of God. There are times when it is Muse given a good old kick up the backside.

Then there is the audience. It is not a normal crowd and with the weather, perhaps predictably, this 500-capacity venue is nowhere near full. There are teenagers, students, thirtysomethings, fortysomethings and grandads.


This could be a reflection of their universal appeal, but in truth this trio from Kingston-upon-Thames are a band that only some get albeit, it seems, cross-generationally.

Bands have devoted fans, of course. But the level of devotion amongst the most ardent of fans here is breathtaking and perhaps testament to the bewitchingly bizarre hybrid rock this Arcane Fire have moulded since they ripped through a proggy version of Smells Like Teen Spirit seven years ago.

It's music for the disaffected, sometimes gentle and soothing, but also very angry which may be why they remain very much an underground band with a dedicated cult following.


Curtains tells the story in one song.

Andrew Groves's seductive falsetto introduction with a haunting mystery drawing parallels with Radiohead's Pyramid Song introduces the darkest of imagery.

"Lately can you feel your pulse wanting to leave? The hollowness feels like a friend," he trills softly as the song starts.

But it later switches, from a plaintive cry to a blazing fury.

"At the end, you're alone. Till the end, one by one. And I hear your calls but they sound the same," front man Andrew Groves spits, screaming the final words repeatedly as guitars detonate in as breathtaking a climax to a rock track as you'll hear.


Perhaps it is just this inability to pigeonhole them beyond the general term 'rock' that sees them falling between stools and might be why two full length albums in they are not filling arenas at least. Not heavy enough for metalheads; to screaming crazy for the mainstream rock listeners.

One devoted fan singing the words to their Bohemian Rhapsody, Curtains, with as much passion as Groves saw fit to coax her boyfriend through one song and warned him of the "heavy bits". If it was a film, it would be called a spoiler. But he, nor we would be complaining, because nothing spoils the explosion even when you know it is coming.

The over-an-hour set here features the majority of what was my favourite 'rock' album of last year Melancholia Hymns viscerally and impeccably delivered.

For most bands it would be an elaborate self-indulgent gesture but for what is one of the most inventive hard rock bands around right now, it is merely exposing the best tunes they currently have on offer.