When I think of Chilean metal bands, I think of the heavily influenced and highly political thrash bands that cry about government corruption that was heavily exacerbated by Pinochet’s regime, rail about the current Chilean government, and comment on the current state of things. For a country filled with such a bloody history, it would make sense that their music would be energetic and angry, even when raising funds for earthquake relief. However, if you decide to look under the surface, that strife and anger can also translate well into a deep melancholy that permeates well into corta venas territory. Stardust Solitude, the sixth album by Poema Arcanvs (“Arcane Poem”) is an album whose sheer weight will sink you straight into an abyss of funeral dirges and riffs.
Now, before I even start, for those of you not familiar with what corta venas is, the term is incredibly self-explanatory: it’s music that makes you want to slit your wrists to let all of the anguish and pain out. This is mostly a trope in Spanish-language romantic ballads, where the lyrics convey a deep pain that makes you cry while singing along. Although metal has this to a degree, something about these ballads makes even the most hardened man cry like a child.
Stardust Solitude is what I would consider to be a darker, heavier take on Paradise Lost’s Obsidian, where the music has that Gothic element but adds weight by employing heavy basslines and riffing. While the music tends to be slow and monotonous in parts, the band both adds groove to the slow parts and employs Claudio Carrasco’s deep and hypnotic vocals to break the pace. This is emphasized on “Orphans,” where they utilize instrumentation to great effect by allowing themselves to groove before employing Claudio’s clean(er) vocals. It works incredibly well and breaks the monotony allowing the listener a respite before the music shifts back to its heavy texture. Never had I wanted to understand what deep emotion the band was coming from, and how it affected them when writing this record. It also seems like each track seems to one up itself in both tone and theme, as if the well was alive with the sound of misery and strife. Granted, the music conveys the weight of loneliness interspersed with moments of levity, but it never fully lets up. It’s a haunting experience that one must be prepared for and must be in the right headspace to enjoy, as the listener will feel the texture the album uses to heavy effect.
Speaking of Obsidian, I couldn’t help but pick up a subtle reference on the track “The Lighthouse Keeper” – it sounds like “Ravenghast,” one of the darker and heavier tracks on that album. I couldn’t help but think that Poema Arcanvs may have listened to this album or had heard about it and then decided to pay homage to it. However, despite these reference, Poema Arcanvs retains their own identity and sound, pulling off their own unique brand of doom metal that makes you wonder what else they have up their sleeve.
I also wanted to briefly talk about their production and its evolution. The band has clearly come a long way since their first album, Arcane XIII, where the production was alright, but it got muddled by the heavy instrumentation and the odd mixing. However, the music here is clearly well-produced and mixed, showcasing cleaner instrumentation and a higher quality. Whether it’s due to the band’s maturity or how knowing what direction they want their music to go, Stardust Solitude showcases what good doom sounds like when executed brilliantly.
All in all, Stardust Solitude is an album that never overstays its welcome, breaking its monotony by one-upping itself and then using that to their advantage. For an album that took eight years to come out, it is incredibly well-orchestrated and conceived. The more you listen to it, the more the album reveals itself to you, finding new threads to pick up and enjoy. Consider me intrigued.