Arð - Official Website

Untouched By Fire

United Kingdom Country of Origin: United Kingdom

1. Cursed To Nothing But Patience
2. Name Bestowed
3. Hefenfelth
4. He Saw Nine Winters
5. Beset By Weapons
6. Casket Of Dust

Review by Vladimir on May 23, 2024.

Have you ever looked at those old 18th or 19th century paintings that depict tragedies from epic poems or medieval times, possibly by Peter Nicolai Arbo. Have you ever looked into those paintings long enough that you immersed yourself and actually felt the depth of those artworks? If you are wondering what the hell I am talking about and why I am asking this, it's because this review will closely describe the feelings of journey I witnessed. The topic of this review will be covering the UK one-man doom metal band Arð from Newcastle upon Tyne, founded and spearheaded by Mark Deeks, whom some of you may know from the black metal band Winterfylleth. Arð had recently released its second full-length album Untouched By Fire via Prophecy Productions, and it has been circling around for a while on social media, with a great amount of praise coming from fans around the world. Although it has been out since April 26th, 2024, and I have been aware of the album's existence for a while, I hadn't been able to check it out initially upon its release, but I was ready to find the right time and jump into it straight away. As much as I thought I was probably going to ride the horse into the battlefields, little did I know that I would actually be found on a ship, sailing on a voyage to the far away lands that were long forgotten, even by those who tell tales. If you want to know more about what this journey has bestowed upon me, stay tuned to find out…

Once you begin your journey with Untouched By Fire, it comes straight down on you like the Wrath of the Titans, with some godlike and spiritual musical experience that you probably would not have expected. This album provides some incredibly epic, melodic and atmospheric work of doom metal, full of mythological elements that throw you back into the medieval Anglo-Saxon kingdom, through such powerful epic choir singing vocals, slow and atmospheric riffs, backed up by guitar melodies, alongside the melancholic pianos, cellos and keyboards that give it an even more grandiose feeling. From start to finish, this album is like a very complex form of monumental storytelling through music, which expresses strong tragedy of various cataclysmic events, something like Ragnarök, aka The Twilight of The Gods, the death of Siegfried in Der Ring des Nibelungen, the death of King Arthur in Excalibur, or the fall of Northumbria by the arrival of the Danes, which is actually the central lyrical subject of Arð. While listening to the music, it's hard to not immerse yourself into the magic of the music, which can be perfectly experienced if you dim the light in your room, close your eyes, relax and picture these events in your head. This album is really consistent with its style and atmosphere, plus the even flow of emotions is nicely carried over from one song to another. The even flow and the consistent emotional expression are just too great that it makes it really difficult to tell which track on the album you like more, because every song on the album hits so hard that it burns like fire. Sarcastically speaking, I think the album title Untouched By Fire is somewhat misleading because every song in here touches your soul that it literally lights your heart on fire, and it just doesn't fade away until the very end. Considering how strong the overall performance is on this album, you simply can't just listen to it like any other music, because it instantly affects you psychologically to experience its glory in first person, making you feel like you are some sort of hero in an epic tale who has been through a great deal of "trial and error", facing peril and various obstacles, while constantly dealing with challenging difficulties along the way as the story goes on.  As the album progresses with each song, it's definitely like a chapter in an epic poem, which gradually builds up to the grand finale, and once it reaches the last and longest track 'Casket Of Dust', you really get this amazing sense of closure that you have finally reached the end and the credits roll.

Arð's songwriting on this album is very strong and on-point with its simplistic approach that was effectively carried out, without feeling empty or one-dimensional despite its stylistic consistency or similar song structures. If anything, the simplicity makes the album really easy to follow along without losing attention, plus it's amazing how such an approach manages to affect you in such a manner that it leaves a strong impression from the very get-go and it never changes as the album goes on. The last time I ever felt something remotely similar or epic was when I first heard the Bathory albums from the viking metal era, from Hammerheart to Nordland II, and I wouldn't be surprised if Mark Deeks took some influences and queues from that, and then fused them into the musical essence of Arð. You can probably tell that the expressive side is where this album won me over, and you wouldn't be wrong, because you just can't keep a straight face from start to finish without building a strong connection with the music. As much as you get a feeling of impending doom that was prophesied to come during the cataclysmic events, you pretty much feel the pain and suffering that flows through the instrumentation, which is definitely what Arð was going for. Production-wise, this album sounds extremely superb and every aspect of it is so expertly carried out, all the way down to the instrumentals and the vocals.

Untouched By Fire turned out to be such a magical and wonderful experience that words just aren't enough to describe or express how I felt while listening to it for the first time, and every time afterwards. This album is a great example that shows how it really takes both knowledge and emotions in the music to create something so simple yet incredibly otherworldly, without any excessive need to reinvent the genre or add nonsense just to make your music stand out more. If you are someone like me who has never got the chance to check out Arð, I think this album can be considered as a great introduction to the band's work, and I can guarantee that you won't regret it.

Rating: 9 out of 10