AMN Reviews: Arcana – Petrichor (2017; Cyclic Law)

Neoclassical dark wave music typically features ethereal and wordless vocals, heavy keyboard and string arrangements, as well as martial drumming. While influenced by medieval music, it uses modern electronic instrumentation. Think Dead Can Dance, but with less of an emphasis on singing.

Founded by Peter Bjärgö over 20 years ago, Arcana is one of the earlier examples of this genre. Petrichor is the group’s first release since 2012. Even though it is a compilation of music from the band’s EPs and singles, the album is still a solid representation of Arcana’s overall sound and feel – it does not stray far from well-anchored roots.

As an example, Part I-II-II, the longest track at 15 minutes, begins with deep synth drones and slow, haunting chants before a tribal drumbeat joins in. Blended male and female voices accompany a slow synth melody over this rhythm. Around the six-and-a-half minute mark, the track switches from the first part to the second, the latter featuring whispered vocals and subtle Middle-Eastern themes over bell-laden percussion. The third part includes complex repetitive drumming, more drones, breathy vocals, and prominent arpeggiated guitar chording.

The music of Arcana evokes something between the high fantasy, gothic, and horror genres. Sparse landscapes, ancient structures, and medieval atmospherics reign. Even if that isn’t your thing, there is a still a lot to like here. And though there are plenty of examples of neoclassical dark wave, Petrichor is not a bad place to start or to round out your exploration of the genre.