Arcane Roots - Blood & Chemistry (Play It Again Sam)

Math rock/indie/prog pop trio Arcane Roots mix it up once again for their latest album Blood & Chemistry

Released May 6th, 2013 via Play It Again Sam / By Katie Malcolmson
Arcane Roots - Blood & Chemistry (Play It Again Sam) What kind of band are Arcane Roots? They just don’t seem to fit into one neat little box. This is perhaps why they have had such success touring with bands as diverse as power-pop punkers Twin Atlantic and folk rock band Dry The River. They aren’t particularly genre specific but, happily, this doesn’t equate to a watered down debut full-length album.

Hailing from Kingston-Upon-Thames, home to infamous punk and indie record shop Banquet Records and a solid music scene of heavyweight twiddly math pop bands (Tubelord, Tangled Hair, Colour, etc.), Arcane Roots have clearly adopted a similar angular mathy approach. However, there is a grandeur here that belongs in the early Biffy Clyro corner of experimental rock pop, which helps to separate Arcane Roots from the plethora of relatively unknown, technically-complex-but-lacking-catchy-songs math bands out there.

In its heavier moments, the opening track of forthcoming album Blood and Chemistry, ‘Energy is Never Lost Just Redirected’, smacks of the more recent And So I Watch You From Afar sound. Still, there are hints of that Biffy magic: a complete fusion of unpredictability and balls-out pop. ‘Resolve’ follows on tidily, where a soaring and distinct-yet-comfortingly-familiar vocal contrasts with hardcore-influenced riffs (think recent Bring Me The Horizon meets My Vitriol).

‘Belief’ is a slow burner, with an epic pop chorus slung on top of a meaty chunk of distorted guitars and crashing drums. It’s a power ballad all right, but of a brand new breed. An outro with a beat down and a jabbing guitar riff ensures there is more than enough ‘rawk’ here to balance out (and toughen up) the indie pop sentiment. ‘Sacred Shapes’, a syncopated, skewed, time-signatured, ball buster (a pinch harmonic, no?) boasts a pop vocal that Justin Timberlake would be proud of (and we mean that in a good way). The track is the epitome of genre defying and a lesson in successfully fusing styles of popular music. It has a short-but-sweet acoustic ballad attached to the end, a pretty and pleasant surprise, bridging the song seamlessly to following track ‘Hell & High Water’.

Debut single from the album, ‘Slow’, satisfyingly evolves from a riff-laden rock hit to a grand and beautiful soundscape awash with harmonies, moments of Mars Volta-esque chord progressions and remarkably dynamic vocals. This is not your average three-minute pop hit. The production across the album is also notable, with skilfully edited and layered guitars. ‘Second Breath’ also refuses to let up for a second – it relentlessly screams in your face while holding you tight by the collar, never losing grip and never losing power. A testosterone-fuelled, hardcore middle eight hook leading into a pretty and dialled-down picked guitar and gentle melody builds anticipation for a colossal and majestic outro that employs the perfect balance of cascading vocal melody and powerful screams. ‘Second Breath’ is possibly Blood & Chemistry’s finest moment.

Closing track ‘You Keep Me Here’ is straight-up bittersweet indie rock, with stabbing guitars and an anthemic chorus. The song melts into a beautiful four-minute string-infused outro before breaking into a hook repetition that well and truly drives the whole album home.

Blood and Chemistry is a perfect example of a band that has managed to achieve the balance of a complete sound that is fairly simple to pinpoint with the ability to fuse styles and create something magnificent. A difficult talent to hone, but Arcane Roots make it look – and sound - effortless. With unapologetic stadium rock-sized moments of glory, as well as complex math pop riffs, this truly is a rock album for the pop kids.