With a hefty back catalogue of demos, 7”s and splits Japanese/French black mentalists Arkha Sva have become quite the underground ‘kvlt’ over their eleven year existence. Their lo-fi yet surprisingly melodic take on black metal has always cut a fine line between the ridiculous and the all-out brilliant, scoring high on a musical level but always falling desperately flat where some of the vocals are concerned, which unfortunately is again the case with new album “Gloria Satanae”.
For those uninitiated Arkha Sva churn out the sort of pagan/black metal that the likes of Graveland and Belketre have been producing over the years, using dissonant melodies and a medium to fast-paced rhythmic gallop that have enough conviction and victorious gleam to stir pagan hearts the world over. With a nice rounded guitar tone and a refreshingly bass-heavy mix the epic majesty of songs like “49 Evil Spirits”, “The Malicious Eye” and the vicious “Thy Baptism” are able to shine through in all their dark glory, keeping that zest of creativity that makes these eastern black metal bands so appealing, while still maintaining the genres rotting roots.
Although Arkha Sva may be superior to many on a musical level, it seems unfortunate, then, that parts of this material are let down by the truly horrendous vocals that make the likes of Dani Filth sound (almost) manly. Quite why and how the horrible falsetto parts on “49 Evil Spirits” and the title track made their way onto here is beyond any reasonable thought, sounding more like a teenage girl attempting to sing opera than someone conjuring the demonic entities of Hell. Nevertheless, “Gloria Satanae” is for the most part a rewarding listen and well worthy of the few quid asking price. (DaveW)