AMN Reviews: Behold The Arctopus – Hapeleptic Overtrove (2020; Bandcamp)

Behold the Arctopus is a curious band for a number of reasons, but let’s begin with how they managed to grab my attention with this release. They write:

Is anyone else tired of how painfully slow metal has evolved recently compared to how quickly innovations occurred at the end of the last century? Think about how drastic and surprising changes were in the 5 years between 1988 and 1993, versus how stagnant metal between 2015 – 2020 has been.

Why yes, despite being a metal fan for over 35 years, its slow rate of change has been frustrating. Also, the early 90’s brought forth a number of groups, most notably Death, Cynic, and Atheist, pushing the envelope of thrash metal in hyper-technical new directions. Go on…

For the new compositions, inspiration was drawn from the non-traditional setup of English free jazz drummer Tony Oxley, and the percussion music of 20th century composers Iannis Xenakis, Edgard Varese, and Elliott Carter. The drum kit for the new album removes extreme metal’s constant harsh static wash by deleting all hi-hats, crashes, and ride cymbals, replacing them with almglocken, wooden plank, metal pipe, broken stacks, and bell/chimes. Sticks are replaced by mallets, and, more importantly, the function of the drums is no longer to play “beats.” Instead the drums take on a role more similar to the guitars, resulting in a sound closer to chamber music than rock.

Sold!

Arctopus is Colin Marston on Warr guitar (a touch-based instrument similar to the Chapman Stick), Mike Lerner on guitar, and Jason Bauers on the aforementioned percussion set. Hapeleptic Overtrove is an exercise in extreme technical metal containing the interlocking rhythms, demanding time changes, rolling melodies, heavy use of hammer-ons and pull-offs, and crunching riffs that you might expect. Think 80’s King Crimson turned up to 11, distorted, and played at double speed by a hyperactive band with little patience for repetition. In other words, the patterns produced by this trio are insane.

But what sets this album apart from a handful of bands in the same general space is the aforementioned drumming of Bauers – his varied contributions do make the nine tracks on Hapeleptic Overtrove sound like chamber metal. Perhaps the best example of this is Blessing in Disgust, a 3-minute burst of disjointed energy with 30 minutes worth of ideas. Bauers’ bells, blocks and general rattling give an already convoluted set of start/stop rhythms a unique character and feel.

Needless to say, there is a lot to unpack here. Behold the Arctopus has produced an information-dense, high-energy snack for the ears, one that is worth returning to over and over.