The South African metalscape has seen many changes over the last thirty-odd years of documented activity, constantly morphing in tandem with local and international trends of the time. Whilst many bands tend to fade out of the scene once the ‘hey-day’ of their chosen genre and style diminishes, some stay the course and further develop original ideas into newer sounds, and sometimes new names emerge long after the fact by revisiting what came before, reinterpreting them into a more up-to-date context.
Arc Reactor appear to me as an excellent example of the latter. While the style of music portrayed in their striking Postmodern Construct debut, full length album is not particularly original sounding, it definitely breathes new life and vigor into the local spin-off of a genre which seemed to have peaked at the turn of the millennium. Although international pioneers of this style, such as the legendary Korn, are still active in highly successful careers today, the “nu-metal” sounds in South Africa’s burgeoning underground have long since faded largely into obscurity except for a few hardy stalwarts such as Gauteng’s Pestroy. What cannot be denied, however, is that no genre will vanish simply because its popularity on the live circuit may have given yield to new generations of young metallers hungry for fresh ideas; but it’s future will be secured by the quality and entertainment value of those who are currently propagating it.
Listening to Postmodern Construct may initially evoke little more than a playful sense of nostalgia. However, as one progresses through the tracks, a distinctive and enjoyable grasp on songwriting principles becomes apparent. It is also refreshing to hear a vocalist in the metal style daring away from the stock-standard “growler/screamer” caste and incorporating a stronger leaning towards more melodic vocal lines; ranging across a wide spectrum of expressions from whispers to clean pitched notes and all the way through to the inevitable screams. Riffs and grooves on the album also remain quite inventive throughout which easily inspired me to a second full-length listen in a single sitting.
The highlight track for me on first sweep was “Power Struggle” (currently only available by purchase), which I am now very eager to see performed live. Despite being able to point out an obvious favorite of my own, the album contains many catchy elements from start to finish and I’m sure I’ll be pinning a couple more of these tracks to my regular playlists very soon. It also helps that the production is pretty darned decent, no thanks to it having been recorded at Cape Town’s Burning Tone Studios which has already gained a reputation for delivering a higher standard than the norm for local metal. All in all, I found Postmodern Construct to be a very pleasing album and I regret not having been able to attend last Friday’s launch in person. I’ll certainly be keeping an eye (and ear) out for future live appearances and releases.
Listen to “Unspoken” off Postmodern Construct below:
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