TOGO: The Togo based band ARKA’N graced us with this monster of an album earlier in March. This body of work has proud African blood running through every vein!
The African rhythms and feeling blend beautifully with the growling lyrics and harshness of heavy metal. The drummer and percussionist are a perfect team, working together to give you the complicated primal flow that binds the songs together, while the guitar, vocals and bass give them flesh.
Zã Keli is unabashedly upfront about African pride, anger and sorrow. A perfect example is the first song on the album, ‘Warrior Song’. With lyrics like “I am standing right here with my fist in the air/ Looking at the sun drying my tears at noon”, you can’t help but sit up and pay attention.
The vocals swing from aggressive growling and screaming to wistful singing, which is impressive. The rapping has good flow, with definite nu-metal influences. I love the understated vocal harmonies, they’re smooth and give great support to the melody.
Some of the songs that really stood out for me were ‘Return of the Ancient Sword’, ‘As I Can Breathe’, ‘Escape’ and ‘Prince of Fire’. ‘Return of the Ancient Sword’ is incredibly epic, and has a superb story-telling undercurrent to it, whereas ‘As I Can Breathe’ is reminiscent of old school Linkin Park. ‘Escape’ has awesome lyrics and the chorus just begs to be belted out (in the car, the shower, whichever floats your boat).
The final track is a surprising departure from the in-your-face distorted guitars and vigorous rhythms. ‘Welcome’ is a contemplatively quiet song, almost ballad-like. It’s dreamy and optimistic, and it’s growing on me.
ARKA’N has been together since 2010, and you can hear it. They’re a cohesive unit, and judging from their Youtube videos, they are brilliant live. It’s not often that bands sound as good in concert as they do on albums, but ARKA’N does!