Album review: Arð – Untouched By Fire

Northumbrian doom outfit Arð continue to voyage through heavy lamentations from an ancient time on vast second album.

Album review: Arð – Untouched By Fire
Nick Ruskell

Last summer, Arð played a gig at Huddersfield town hall, for which they added the building’s massive mid-19th century organ to their ranks (as well as My Dying Bride singer Aaron Stainthorpe). The thick, physical bottom-end the drones gave their doom outpourings was immense (obviously… obviously), as well as helping their windswept songs connect even more with a sense of the past. But it also served to highlight the creative ambitions of band main-brain and multi-instrumentalist Mark Deeks, and mark Arð out as a far more singular prospect than just another (very good) doom collective.

Second album Untouched By Fire is a record one can fully imagine being made with similar end results in mind to tell its tale of 7th century Northumbrian warrior king Oswald. Stately and unhurried, with layered vocals that often sound like the chanting of monks, the atmosphere in opener Cursed To Nothing But Patience and Hefenfelth is as dark and shadowy as it is dramatic. Name Bestowed begins with choral vocals, slowly bringing in droning keys, before the metal floods in after three minutes, but this doesn’t feel like an intro, it’s part of the fabric of what Arð are doing with their self-styled Monastic doom. Similarly, the pipes and chants of Beset By Weapons feels as important a part of all this as the banging, more traditionally metal bits of He Saw Nine Winters.

Arð are different. This is music of clear vision, ambition, a studious approach to how to achieve them, and the skill to pull it all off. They’re probably going to need an even bigger organ to properly deliver it all live.

Verdict: 3/5

For fans of: My Dying Bride, Pantheist, Skepticism

Untouched By Fire is out now via Prophecy

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