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XXII Arcana - A Return To The Darkland

XXII Arcana
A Return To The Darkland
by Craig Rider at 17 March 2021, 6:16 PM

Metal maniacs, rejoice! I am proud to present to you: XXII ARCANA; signed via Einheit Produktionen, hailing from Namibia grounds - performing Heavy Metal, on their compilation album compiling a "best of" set list from their 1st 3 albums entitled:"Fallen From Grace" (released August 22nd, 2019), "This Burning Darkness" (released in 2002) & "Your Fatal Embrace" (released 2003). With 2 brand spanking new tracks entitled: "Ramses" & "Sacrifice" being added from a 2020 recording session, this record is a re-release entitled: "A Return To The Darkland" (released 02/25/2021).

Since formation in 1997; the quintet in question have the 1st 3 albums, a Demo called "Demon Flower" (released January 5th, 1997), along with an EP called "Barren Land" (released November 24th, 2000). With the most recent releases being a single entitled: "Sweet Immortal" (released in 2020), and another brand new offering in video form called "The Untold" (released sometime in 2021). I am introduced to their first compilation album entitled: "A Return To The Darkland". 15 tracks ranging at around an hour and 20 minutes long; ARCANA XXII arranges an intricately designed formula on some heavy-hitting Heavy Metal developments.

Among one of the very chosen few bands in African territory, Einheit Produktionen resurrect ARCANA XXII back from the dead after a long 20 year hiatus, the band decide to show off their diligence in the Heavy Metal landscape with this old school re-release called "A Return To The Darkland" that promises a concrete return for the future.

Acting as a collection of “Best Of” selections from their previous discographies while adding 2 new Bonus tracks into the mix; ARCANA XXII delivers a thrilling offering where an astounding lineup also featuring Robert Scott (on bass), Hartmuk Wenk (on drums), and Willie Grobler (on vocals) all also contribute a vast yet empowering musicality from this Namibian tribe.

Opening up with this rompy rampancy of blistering grooves, a crunchy calamity in flamboyantly crushing chisels rumble with reverberating mayhem & ripping maelstrom virtuosity. Quintessentially unleashing this thunderous bombast in boisterously bouncy heat, barraging a gnarly hook in fretwork firepower finesse in which strikes with punchy jumpiness & sonically seamless solidity. "Ramsas", one of the new belters introduces a concretely gritty foundation in hardened bruisers that revel with slaying subjugation. The riffs are incredible, fuelled on primitively raw tightness & weighty thuds while the drums clobber eardrums with sturdy adrenaline & amplified pummels which pursue with wildly rushing yet salubriously volatile synergy. The vocal work surges with these yells of harmonised impact, high-pitched singing screams with sulfurous yet gravitating bellows in which shout with mighty authority & immersively distinguished èclat.

Consisting frontman Johann Smit demonstrates a complexly distinctive fabrication in euphonic cords that showcase this uprising mellow while raspy throatiness that skyrockets with profusely robust perseverance within the singing ability. "Sweet Immortal" starts off the main record, portraying more potently vibrant snappiness from guitar duo Johan de Jager & Sven Heussen. Both excel at a tempestuously twinning hybrid in experimental grinds, organic substance & rapidly towering nimbleness, swiftly trailblazes with ripping shreds that will make you marvel within the melodic yet meticulous songwriting musicianship that's profoundly vehement while uniquely versatile. "White Light And Black Spaces'' manifests this dexterously dynamic kick on killer laceration mobilities where the tempos strum with chugging frolics, and a immersively immense array of vocals that stem from guttural growling, to throaty screams that surge with deep but clean singing until outbursting with outrè panache & steamrolling musicalities that will rock your skull with keen flows.

Polished with fluid bass audibility from Sigi Mueller; songs like "Barren Land" continue to rollick with persistent trembles while rambunctious piledriving from hammering drummer Thomas Hoffmann executes a stompy ramification on thumpy precision, contrasting an exhilarating distinction on chunky hymns and catchy anthems of funky technicalities that revel with steely significance…until a bulldozing crescendo belts a stampeding solo while more tuneful remedies that captivate an intriguing grip for your soul which spellbinds you with creative interest. Another acute bruiser: "Lobonian Rhapsody" entices an infectious injection on some venomous zest, where an enriching empowerment of some salient vigor and crisp chunkiness, distributes distorted pummels that oscillate with this revolving rev while upbeat singing varieties merge with tasteful yet detailed diligence - especially in "Remember Forever".

"Hallowed Ground" begins with this majestic but acoustic hymn, some operatic singing with clean and elegant furer intrudes. A very slow track that acts as an interlude for the next epic: "Untold" as the resonance of the previous song unearths this adventurously ambitious slab of effervescent effect, giving off this mystifying uproar that fuses ethereal and hypnotic systematics while relentless stability storms with mythical entrancement. "Like A God" examines hefty craftsmanship fidelity, contrasting with this archaic fundamental in flexible technicalities on progressive but catchy conundrums that wonders with spectacular aptitude. “Out Of Control” evaluates a hasty gallop of driving bass sublimity, where the tenacious triggers articulates in a diaphanous etiquette of mellow tempos while melodramatic vocals have a low but deep flair embedded, while this dancy droniness & enriching guitar shrieks snare with sophisticated embrace as a ferocious solo near the end that grips a fierce tear for you to rock to.

This Burning Darkness” generates a lofty exaltation on fabled grandeur, until this treading bedazzlement engulfs you with dashing elan and rocking verve. Until this richful vivacity shrouds an absorbing collision on methodical yet zappy virulence within the next epic in the “Darkland”, unravelling this lengthy exert as ambient blackness evolves into a doomy slice of radical wickedness. This 8 minute mammoth has a chilling presence on dark but brooding deathliness, a lordy but dignified element forges gloomy density…until this jamboree of bashing ideocenticity in electric boogaloo grooves with strong magnitude. “Faith Or Fear” embellishes on similar tenor, until this unique approach from these thriving vocal performances attributes in buoyancy and fervour enthusiasm, making this a very tribal yet spirited splendour on mighty triumphs & striving mobilities that will transfix you totally with splendid pizzazz.

The penultimate song: “Fallen From Grace” is a short yet solaceful strum filled with acoustic mellow; while a hint of melancholic serenity completes this overall return to their prowess of their envision of the darklands, assailed with one more bonus belter: “Sacrifice” which perhaps isn’t as big as the first banger but very close. It makes for a promising return from these African giants. Still very surprising to find a band from those lands, and ARCANA XXII certainly do Heavy Metal great justice with this re-release.

Bottom line; I am compelled to say that ARCANA XXII certainly outdone themselves with this one, I for one do appreciate hearing from unknown territories in the Metal universe and “A Return To The Darkland” was definitely a discovery worthy of a few spins. Apparently recorded using analogue equipment, as this compilation was recorded from in between 1997-2002 in homegrown lands - expect a raw yet roughly rugged experience of enjoyably entertaining Heavy Metal majesty - most worthy of a listen or few.

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

4 Star Rating

01. Ramses
02. Sweet Immortal
03. White Light and Black Spaces
04. Barren Land
05. Lobonian Rhapsody
06. Remember Forever
07. Hallowed Ground
08. Untold
09. Like a God
10. Out of Control
11. This Burning Darkness
12. Darkland
13. Faith or Fear
14. Fallen From Grace
15. Sacrifice
Sigi Mueller - Bass
Robert Scott - Bass
Thomas Hoffmann - Drums
Hartmut Wenk - Drums
Sven Heussen - Guitars
Johan de Jager - Guitars
Willie Grobler - Vocals
Johann Smit - Vocals
Record Label: Einheit Produktionen


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Edited 01 December 2022

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