Review by Greg Noble
Arrowhead “Coven of the Snake”
What the release notes said:
Rising from the underground of Sydney’s stoner rock scene, the Arrowhead brotherhood fire an explosive, all killer/no filler triptych of volume, attitude and down-tuned grooves.
Hitting you harder than a Frank Frazetta-airbrushed panel van travelling at 100mph, Arrowhead is very much a band defined by the riffs that raised them. Fronted by guitar player, vocalist and chief songwriter Brett Pearl, Brett was brought up on a staple diet of classic rock with Hendrix, Zeppelin, Floyd and Sabbath rarely leaving the turntable. Joined by fellow purveyor of low-end grind is bass player/Viking Arron Fletcher, guitarist Raff Iacurto and living backbone of the band, Matt Cramp on drums.
With each member feeding into the Arrowhead-approved vision of hard rock reverie via Hollywood monsters and science fiction cinema, having paid their dues as a band since late 2009, following on from 2010’s Atomsmasher EP, their self-titled debut and 2016’s Desert Cult Ritual, the latest addition to the quartet’s quiver is new album, Coven of the Snake. An album that is equal parts venom and mysticism, and 100% blood-bound to steal your soul in the name of rock and roll.
My thoughts on this album:
Looking through the list of 9 tracks, my curiosity was piqued and I wondered about the journey upon which I was about to embark. Ironically, as I listened, I had the movie “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” on the tv. These proved to be odd partners in crime!
Each track sinks it’s claws into you right from the very beginning and doesn’t let go.
“Coven of the Snake” slithers forward with a fuzzy guitar groove that fills out to a synergistic sound. Brett Pearl’s vocals are clear and accessible, whilst still being rich and ominous. It’s melodic and musical, with abundant attitude. The music has a well crafted feel – the 10 years that the band has been together seems to be time well spent. The track changes gears later with a different riff – it’s like the track has a life of its own.
“All Seeing Eye” has a great guitar arrangement, with the riff layers being quite elegant. A tribal tempo change and elevation of the vocals draws you in and the track has a somewhat ominous notion of always being watched.
“Ceremony of the Skull” bursts open with a fuzzed up, driving riff. It is a change of pace and style that is true to the theme of a ceremony. The flavor is again an occult one and the guitar squelches add a quirky presence.
“Ghost Ship” has a fuller, denser sound with catchy riffs. Its heavier nature adds scope and variety to the album, with hard-pounding percussion.
“Root of Evil” is rich in melodrama, with a simple set of lyrics repeated that change slightly. It had me listening closely to see how each incarnation of the lyrics would evolve. The fuzzed guitars resonate rampantly and it morphs later with different riffs.
“Dopanaught” opens with a Black Sabbath riff that is slightly grating because of its sound. This anchors the track. Terrific use of effects and some clever writing are woven throughout it. The seemingly effortless guitar work is the star here.
“March of the Reptiles” features gritty guitars as the heralds to reptiles marching to war. As I listened, I conjured images of reptiles striding off into battle. The arrangement of the track was like a cold-blooded battle, with the quick guitar work and clashing bass line.
“Golden Thunder Hawk” weighs in at almost 7 minutes. Usually, I dread the long closing track on an album, as they are often self-indulgent, but I approached this one with anticipation, given what I had heard thus far. Arrowhead didn’t disappoint. It features an intriguing opening, with a stripped back, echoed guitar. A tribal riff is then overlaid and the vocals join about 2 minutes in. It’s a shifting, strong ending to a great album.
Arrowhead has produced a riff-heavy album that is redolent with occult references. Brett Pearl’s vocals are clear and cogent, allowing easy access to the lyrics, whilst still conveying a sense of sinister purpose.
Arrowhead has honed their music to a razor sharp instrument that cuts to your very soul. Citing Black Sabbath, Ledd Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and Grand Funk Central as their influences, these styles are all present, but like in any good recipe, the result is greater than the sum of its parts.
As a collection of songs, it’s not an opera, but it is an occult accumulation that is grand in scope and scale. Each track tells a tale – not in a confronting way – but that makes for compelling narratives. The listener brings their own experiences to each track and this enables the conjuring of imagery. I found myself listening and composing mini movies to match the music.
But, given the occult themes, are Arrowhead convincing in their delivery of them?
I once saw Richard from Rammstein asked why people seem to engage so fully with their music and stage shows. He spoke about it not being good enough to dress up as Mephisto (this was the word he used) – you had to BECOME Mephisto, or it wasn’t believable.
This is what Arrowhead achieved with this album: they walked the walk.
In great, big boots.