Portugal’s experimental rockers Vircator have been evolving for the last seven years after their initial formation in 2012. The band members have come together dragging all manner of influences and musical styles from other projects that encompass everything from metal to pop music.
As such, this gives Arcano a distinctly unique flavour that makes describing its overarching style as difficult to pin down as my daughter currently is during a nappy change.
This purely instrumental affair spans six individual tracks that have been inspired by the themes of nature, spirituality and the spiritual connection between the human consciousness and the world around it. Musically this translates into an album that presents the listener with gritty riffing, ethereal passage of lightness, churning prog, trippy shoe gaze and even desert laced stoner rock.
Arcano is a complex journey that relies on the music to inspire your emotions and give voice to the expression laid out in the music, which can present its own challenges. This album can become something to put on in the background and hope that a moment jumps out to capture your attention, or makes it a dedicated listening experience worthy of headphones and a darkened room.
In truth, Vircator mange to straddle this pretty well. Over the course of reviewing this album, I have played it in several different circumstances – some I’ve had huge distractions, while at other times I’ve been utterly immersed in it and the album works both ways.
There is always a chunky guitar part accompanied by pounding drums and rumbling bass or a dazzling space rock passage that can spring out of nowhere. Stylistically the band track dark to light, heavy to mellow and all the space in-between in a very competent and deftly executed manner.
[Arcano] presents the listener with gritty riffing, ethereal passage of lightness, churning prog, trippy shoe gaze and even desert laced stoner rock…
Burdock opens the affair like a high tempo blend of Kyuss and Tool, the urgent speed of the riffing accented by off kilter notes and shifting time signatures that contrasts with Lady Fern’s shuffling drums and snaking guitar parts. These tracks often take an opening motif then playfully twist and change it, feeding back to the familiar refrain later on in the tracks, but somehow mutated or twisted into a new take.
Elsewhere tracks like Yarrow recall the vibe of Black Sabbath and Mandrake is a dark moody down beat affair that sets up the light whimsy of Agrimony as everything channels through the carefully planned journey the band want you to follow.
Production is handled well by Pedro Correia, clearly at home in Studio B as the warm and well-rounded sound of Arcano allows all of the band to shine as individuals and no one gets lost in the mix. Then they come together to hit you with the full force of the assemble like on the powerful closer Juniper.
In truth with instrumental albums, you can say it’s inspired by anything and to be honest the wider themes didn’t jump at me from the music or the song titles but that is the beauty of interpretation. Vircator’s third album is very well done though. If you enjoy experimental prog-rock I can guarantee you would be happy with this, maybe on a dark winter’s evening with a recreational smoke and shutting yourself off to indulge the sensory experience.
If it’s not really your thing Arcano is unlikely to convert you, but the band have delivered another solid addition to their back catalogue and prove here they know exactly what they’re doing. If they were from California they would probably be salivated over.
Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden