Perhaps there are some things out there that aren’t meant to be known, but as a man of science, I find that unacceptable. The universe is constantly expanding, and that rate of expansion might even be increasing itself, so literally who knows what could be lurking in the black corners of the cosmos? Well, there are two categories of people invested in figuring those answers out: astrophysicists and black metal musicians. Mesarthim have always been both part of the enigma and part of the solution, and with their new album Arrival the mysterious duo push against the confines of both space and black metal.
Mesarthim really do put the “cosmic” in cosmic black metal. Almost all of their brand revolves around space and space accessories (you know, like stars and stuff), but the real special sauce that makes up their core dynamic is the fusion of raw, atmospheric black metal with EDM, trance and ambient synth work. Back in 2021, I had the absolute pleasure of reviewing CLG J02182-05102 (try saying that five times fast) and I truly had never heard anything like it. I don’t detest electronic music but it’s not something I normally seek out or have a depth of knowledge about, but I was absolutely blown away by how much I found myself not just enjoying the blend of buzzsaw guitars, retched vocals and melodic, bouncy synthesizers, but actually appreciating how well they really do blend together when executed with skill. On Arrival, the band seem to pick up right where they left off with their electronic tendencies (dubbed Phase II of the project), to great effect. Pulsing bass lines, thumping electronic drums and heavily melodic synth lines soar off into the depths of the inky blackness, while maintaining their root in black metal that has a lot more warmth and soul than you might initially think. The whole package comes together in a way that continues to be untouched territory for black metal, but I’ll say it again: I like my black metal bastardized and adulterated six ways from Sunday.
There’s a certain cinematic gravitas to the way the synths underpin everything. They really do a lot of heavy lifting, and in ways that are pretty surprising. They are not just a facet of the overall sound, they almost take over at times. Obviously the electronic interludes that set up the main tracks showcase a variety of styles, but in those main tracks, there are moments that venture almost into pop territory with the way the synths pop in and out and jab these earworm melodies at you. Take tracks like “Arrival, Pt. 2” or “Arrival, Pt. 3” for example, which pair mournful black metal with uplifting, almost dancey beats and melodic lines. Arrival is an album that is stacked with hooks and soaring melodies, and that’s saying nothing of the guitar work. Most of the time, the guitars play a harmonic foil to the synths, but when the lead work kicks in, things get especially tasty. The solos on here are actually killer, with a style very reminiscent of the best of 80’s hair metal (see “Arrival, Pt. 5” for an excellent example). It’s very obvious that this album is a labor of love of two genres, so in case you were wondering if I was ever going to stop talking about the electronics, let me say that Mesarthim also do their black metal roots justice. The synths really are the stars of the show, but when the black metal hits, it HITS. “Arrival, Pt. 6” rips right into evil tremolo picking and blast beats, while “Type IV” (a sequel to the previous released single “Type III”) slow burns into a much more black-metal focused affair over it’s sixteen-minute-and-change runtime.
Arrival is another triumph in the catalog of Mesarthim. As grandiose as the cosmos itself, this is an album that aims high and manages to bring together a lot of bits and pieces that might not look like they fit to the naked eye. As infinite as the expanses of the universe, so too is the creative capacity of the Australian duo, and I can’t wait to see what the next wave of discovery brings us.
Arrival is available now on Avantgarde Music. For more information on Mesarthim, visit their Facebook page.