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Arkana Fen – Six of Swords Award winner

Arkana Fen
Six of Swords
by Gary Hernandez at 02 February 2020, 11:46 AM

ARKANA FEN is a three-piece Symphonic Metal project founded in 2017. Now, this is typically the sentence in the review where I mention the band’s locale. The problem is ARKANA FEN is a truly international band — as in, each member is from a different country: Ellie, New Zealand; Eric, Mexico; Icaro, Brazil. Don’t ask me how the logistics work for the band. Do they have video conferences, fly a lot, or somehow transmit their sentience through the net and mindmeld in some cyberspace alternate reality? Who knows? But record they do, and in November 2019 they released their second EP, “Six of Swords.”

Word on the street, or the internet, is the band’s master plan is to release a trilogy of EPs, each with three tracks. Spoiler alert, “Six of Swords” has four tracks. Oops. But, hey, things happen. It’s still a very good album and no one is complaining about getting an extra track. So, first things first: six of swords refers to the minor arcana tarot card which represents overcoming difficulties and progressing into a time of healing and calm. It also suggests the fatigue and let down felt after the exertion spent in getting through said challenges. The band has said that the first EP in the trilogy, “Reborn from the Ashes,” was “about triumph, about struggles and hardships.” “Six of Swords,” then, is the logical next step of moving forward from that stage.

Background and thematics aside, how is the album? Soprano Ellie Kamphuis (BLOOD RED SOIL) is the consummate symphonic vocalist. Think NIGHTWISH, EPICA, SIRENIA and you’re on track. Eric Murdarak’s (Eric Aguilar) guitar work is both refined and insistent. The lead solos are harmonic and classically influenced. Icaro Ravelo’s (MINDCRAFTER, RUINS OF ELYSIUM) synth work and drumming are also exceptional. Odd combination, that — keyboards and drums — thinking of a Venn diagram with the xylophone in the mid-zone.

As with most Symphonic metal, and as you’d expect from a “project,” the production values are excellent. The separation between each instrument, as well as vocals, is crisp and distinct; the layering of atmospheric builds (keyboard undercurrents and flourishes and triumphant choral overlays) lends an atmosphere of emotive opulence. From the sweeping instrumental “Wing of Fire” to the riff heavy “Ashes of Time” to the epic “Six of Swords” and right on through to the piano outré of “Immortal Penitence,” every track on the album is stunning.

April 2019, fellow Metal Temple writer Dave "That Metal Guy" Campbell rated the first installment of the trilogy, “Reborn from the Ashes,” a solid eight. The second installment, “Six of Swords,” comes in a well-deserved nine. I might have to enter into a duel of magicks and psychic wars for rights to review the third EP, but I’m up for it.

Songwriting: 8
Musicianship: 9
Memorability: 8
Production: 9


4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Wing of Fire
2. Ashes of Time
3. Six of Swords
4. Immortal Penitence
Lineup:
Ellie Kamphuis – Vocals
Eric Murdarak – Guitars
Icaro Ravelo – Drums and keyboards
Record Label: Independent
     


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