ARCANE – Known-Learned (Sensory/The Laser’s Edge)ARCANE – Known-Learned (Sensory/The Laser’s Edge)

As vast, sprawling and diverse as Arcane’s homeland, the Australian band’s third album is huge body of work. Clocking in at two hours, the sixteen-track double CD – although not presented as a concept album – describes snapshots of the interwoven lives of a father and daughter, the two CDs intriguingly titled ‘Known’ and ‘Learned’. It’s a huge endeavour, but one which the band pull off with aplomb.

The elegantly progressive yet prosaic Brisbane-based Arcane have been winning fans by the bucketload since the release of their debut album ‘Ashes’ in 2007. ‘Chronicles Of The Waking Dream’ a couple of years later helped to heighten their profile, but in ‘Known-Learned’ the band have stretched their boundaries to the far horizons of the progressive metal scene. Of course, it helps that in vocalist Jim Grey, guitarist Michael Gagen, keyboard player Matthew Martin and drummer Blake Coulson Arcane is composed of musicians of exceptional talent. Grey in particular is a great asset to the band’s sound, his voice ranging from the haunting to the assertive, but always delivering exactly what the song requires of it: a case in point is the poignant ‘Little Burden’ on ‘Learned’, where melancholic early verses give way to a quite unexpected and forceful coda.

‘Known’ is the more direct of the two discs, opener ‘Promise (Part 2)’ attention-seeking from the start largely thanks to Gagen’s thick, punchy guitar work and Grey’s spiralling vocals; in one nine-minute song Arcane say more than many other bands achieve over a whole album. ‘Keeping Stone: Sound On Fire’ also keeps things at the heavier end of the spectrum, Gagen’s solid riff keeping the song firmly on track as it thunders to its (perhaps unexpected) conclusion. ‘Learned’ appears more introspective, and more keyboard-driven, with the likes of the passionate ‘Eyes For A Change’ rubbing shoulders with the atmospheric ‘Nightingale’s Weave’ which soars into latter-day Anathema territory. And in ‘Keeping Stone: Water Awake’ Arcane deliver a complete masterclass into how to compose the perfect song. What’s not to like?

© John Tucker February 2015