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Arco

I find that a decent portion of my favorite music possesses a heavy dose of pathos. I am fascinated by the expurgation of pain through music. Songwriting is one of the most cathartic activities one can take part in, and ultimately the quality of the material is informed by its emotional truth.
 
Perhaps that is why my interest in the art form flourished during the grunge era— the counter-culture to the good-time party vibe of the 80’s delivered unfettered emotion exposed under a few floodlights and blasted agony through an amplifier. Rather than Dr. Feel-Good, we were presented with the pain of coping with addiction. Instead of dalliances or promiscuity, we were shown the anguish of love lost and the struggle to pick up the pieces. The mood was visceral, and the resulting material was all the more engaging because it was relatable.
 
The bulk of music consumers (and subsequently performers) are not millionaire rock-stars: they are kids with second-hand instruments, inherited sound-systems, rooms full of records and heads full of hopes that are struggling to flourish amidst the overwhelming ennui of everyday living. Angst is their industry.
 
When I hear artists who share that same sensibility, I can’t help but be instantly taken with them. I loved Alice in Chains because they sowed symphonies around misshapen, grisly, loathsome and lurid subjects. Concurrently there’s a part of me that is freed by, as I say, putting my insides outside (figuratively speaking). It’s the thing that drew me up onto a stage in the first place. The performance was, initially, not really about the audience… it was about me liberating my poisonous thoughts in a positive way. Many of my compatriots were self-destructive in their addictions; I was self-expressive.
 
By that same token, when I first heard HURT I felt an instant kinship with J. Loren’s lyrics. He eloquently expressed sentiments of isolation, paranoia, lust, distrust and disillusionment that made the beast in me scream in harmony. Their riffs were lavish, drizzled with the decadent gliss of violin and driven by a rhythm section that hit like (pardon the pun) a ten-ton brick. They are a rare and beautiful breed of rock band: one with an innate sense of melody that is progressively expressive in their delivery of angsty, aggressive rock music. They did not shy away from quiet, introspective or ornate moments in compositions, either. Contrast was a point of emphasis— and that embellished the heavier elements upon their reintroduction to the record.
 
Thus, when I heard that J. was going to be involved with another project I was thoroughly intrigued. Once I got a little background on the record’s creation, I was enthralled.
 

 
Arco’s Angel began as a creative outlet for former Leo guitarist Michael Roberts. Following Leo’s dissolution, Roberts was attempting to re-establish himself in the music scene. As he states in the AA’s biography, “Starting over in music is not an ideal situation, and those were dark times.” He began penning material that was a reflection of his outlook at the time. With the daunting task of making a name for himself in the industry independent of his former projects looming before him, Roberts’ compositions were dark, somber and atmospheric.
 
Having accumulated a decent array of instrumental pieces, Michael began to share them with his friend and former Leo bandmate Rek Mohr, who was touring as the bassist for HURT at the time. Rek then approached J. Loren about finding potential vocalists for Michael’s project. At this juncture a seed was planted which would eventually bloom into Arco’s Angel. “I offered to write lyrics and melodies for a couple of the tunes in the hopes of making the job of getting his band going again easier,” J. states, “Michael was far too talented to be sitting at home doing nothing.” As Michael had engineered / mixed HURT’s Goodbye to the Machine (2009) and his close confidante Rek was touring with the group, it was an easy connection to make.
Roberts
Following a prolonged absence of interest from other vocalists, J. became more and more involved in the songwriting until he finally joined the project in earnest. “I began to look forward to working on his stuff more and more,” J. states, “because it gave me a different set of challenges and liberties that I am not afforded on my own.” As a reflection of the music’s tonality life’s love loss became the theme for (and eventual title of) their debut album.
 
From the onset of Life’s Love Lost it is very easy to see the attraction the material would present to J. Loren. The compositions share many qualities with HURT’s material. There is an abundance of both rock and melodic elements, each track sonically diverse and dynamic. Distorted guitar bleeds in and out of arrangements around J.’ s soaring vocals and arpeggiated acoustic guitar on, “Of Buttons and Leaves,” the album’s opening track. That dynamic is a definite hallmark of HURT’s music, and the collaboration between J. and Michael proves very fruitful in playing off the similarities and subtle separations from HURT’s wheelhouse.
 
Arco’s Angel does share a problem experienced by A Perfect Circle when that group first came into being. It is very easy to draw parallels between bands when they share a lead vocalist. Are there similarities between Tool and APC? Certainly; however, they are entirely different creatures when you get into the stylistic elements of each group. The same can be said of HURT and Arco’s Angel.
 
Robert’s riffs do share a tonal similarity with material featured on HURT’s previous releases, (for instance, AA’s tune, “At Loss for Worlds,” main riff bears a very striking similarity to HURT’s, “Role Martyr X,”) but the album’s nuances feel a bit grittier than the last two HURT releases. Arco’s Angel is far more reminiscent of HURT’s earlier efforts.
J.Loren
“Ready For Nothing,” the record’s third track, is rooted by rolling toms and crisp, shimmering acoustic guitar tones— yet subtle slides are incorporated surging in and out of the choruses, imbuing the track with a southern-rock tinge. The guitar solos throughout the record are bend oriented, possessing a delayed, soaring quality that is more in-keeping with the work of Warren Haynes than Paul Spatola.
 
“The Defeatalist,” track four, features dissonant vocal harmonies and a punctuated, staccato guitar riff that evokes the glory days of Alice in Chains. “Southbound (Playin’ With Guns),” begins with atmospheric synth tones and light guitar feedback before kicking in with jangling electric guitar and a slow-burn tempo that swells as the track builds momentum.  This song in particular has a wonderful ascendant quality, as the melody is progressively augmented with varied instrumentation as it builds to its crescendo.
 
The main notable difference between HURT and AA is the absence of violin. A major strength and identifier for HURT’s sound, it does not come into play with Arco’s Angel. There is, however, an abundance of hooks- both musical and melodic- to ensnare your ear. “At Loss for Worlds,” (as previously mentioned) is a groove-heavy tune that is sure to prompt sudden involuntary head-banging, while, “Everything,” is a reflective, pensive down-tempo rocker that lulls you with its soft and enveloping verses before bludgeoning you with its chunky chorus riffs.
 
If you are a HURT fan, you’ll do well to give this album your full attention. Layered with brooding, growling guitars, crisp acoustic interludes and the exploration of the full sonic spectrum between them, this is an unadulterated rock record that screams to disenfranchised denizens of garage bands around the globe. J. Loren’s lyrical contributions perfectly encapsulate personal heartbreaks, rendering vivid depictions of distrust, despondency, sorrow and self-loathing amid swells of staggeringly arresting melody.  The album is both aggressive and introspective, itself embodying the tumultuous kaleidoscope of emotional disarray accompanying relationship’s dissolution or the loss of a loved one.  
 
Arco’s Angel is named for, as stated on the group’s Facebook page, “the angel who mourns deeply with people who have lost their life’s love to tragedy. He lives in the darkness of his hands, and his pain is constant and has no end. He tried to cut off his hand so he can focus on that pain, instead of feeling the pain in his heart. The only thing that keeps him going is his ability to help people forget their tragedy.” With Life’s Love Loss, the band certainly lives up to the billing. This is music with substance, exorcising pain and trepidation with notes and phrases, helping assuage the ache in both artist and audience alike. A divine calling if ever there were one… If you need a little saving yourself, you will be well-served by seeking your succor from Arco’s Angel.
 
The album is currently available for purchase via the group’s official page. You can procure your copy here.

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