If there is a label with an eye (or ear) for the unique, quaint and beautiful, it’s definitely the German label Prophecy Records. Slightly misled by the tag ‘doom metal’, yours truly started listening and reviewing the solo project of Mark Deeks (Winterfylleth), called ARÐ. Those familiar with Winterfylleth and the musicians behind it, probably also know that they are history buffs, well versed in (Northern) European histories.
ARÐ has sprung from that passion for history and, of course, music. The name is taken from an Old English word meaning “native land” in the dialect of the Anglian Kingdom of Northumbria. Thematically, the debut album tells the tale of the legendary relics of the famous Northumbrian saint Cuthbert (634-687) and their long journey. Why this history lesson before diving in the music? The story of the album seems quite important for the narrative in combination with musical choices made on the record.
The first song, “Burden Foretold,” starts off with a typical doom riff and a male choir, which throughout the song is alternated with a narrative, spoken with a calm, deep voice, combined with a soothing cello (played by UK’s well-known cello player Jo Quail). The track tends to get a bit repetitive and doesn’t hint at the other beautiful and versatile parts of this album, perhaps not making it the best start of the record. “Take Up My Bones” easily makes up for that. It’s a dramatic song, slow paced with a heavy, monastic vibe and featuring many layers of instruments and melodies, that leaves you yearning for more and discovering new elements each time you listen to it.
“Bough of Trees” is an atmospheric, instrumental track that seduces your mind into wandering off. The soft, clean vocals on “Banner of Saints”, will draw you back to the narrative and share key characteristics with the title track. As the journey ends, “Only Three Shall Know”, is a culmination of everything you’ve heard before but possibly a bit more epic in sound and use of instruments, which makes it a fitting end to the album.
If anything, “Take Up My Bones” is a very unique album. While heavily leaning on the bones of doom metal, the music is also often stripped of the burdensome melodies and distorted guitars, leaving a skeleton of very elegant, tranquil music. This, in combination with the fitting, intriguing manner in which Mark Deeks has chosen to tell the story of Cuthbert’s bones, makes it the kind of album that you’ll return to ever so often to discover something new and have you brush off your Anglo Saxon history books.
Release date: February 18, 2022
Label: Prophecy Records
1. Burden Foretold
2. Take Up My Bones
3. Raise then the Incorrupt Body
4. Boughs of Trees
5. Banner of the Saint
6. Only Three Shall Know