June 26, 2008 | | 3.5

Celestine, At the Borders of Arcadia

Iceland’s Celestine are in a league of their own when compared to other known artists (Sigur Ros, Bjork) hailing from their frozen homeland. Dense, aggressive guitars churn throughout the six song EP while thick, chugging rhythms build the base for the sonically textured attack. Despite the overall nature of the band’s sound they certainly are not adverse to experiment with their sound — as seen with the moody atmospherics and subtle melodies that weave in and out of the disc. It’s not just the sound that’s experimental. Take a look at the song titles. They work together to form a single, prophetic statement: “Despair and witness the ruin of God and me.”

As far as the music goes, At the Borders of Arcadia features caustic vocals with a genuine feel to the effort and emotion captured within each scream and growl. The guitars jump from chugging riffs to chaotic hooks to melodic atmosphere seamlessly as the rhythm section lays waste to all of Iceland and the world with heavy drums and thick bass.

Despair (and)
The opening track starts with light acoustic work that shifts to a slightly atmospheric sound around the 30 second mark as light drumming enters. Once the screamed vocals come in shortly after the one minute mark passes, the group has chugging (yet melodic) Arsis inspired sound. The layered vocals are a nice touch and add some nice depth to the song. There’s a nice slow down for a bit before Celestine jumps back into the fray with churning guitars and beefy rhythms.

Witness (the)
Crunchy riffs and raw vocals get “Witness (the)” off to a chugging start with thick rhythms. So far, the vocal work on this EP is beyond impressive. It’s raw, emotional and without pretense. And when layered with backing vocals and thrown into the down tuned churning mass of metal, it’s impossible to ignore. I love the progressively slowing down around the three minute mark. It’s a nice change up from the caustic textures found throughout the disc.

Ruin (of)
Atmospheric noise and guitars start off this next one for a minute or so before the vocals come in strong. There are some smooth tempo changes throughout the song that ebb and flow with the emotion of the vocals, creating a memorable song. There’s sort of a breakdown of sorts around the 2:30 mark. It’s not monstrous, but effective in what it does for the flow of the track.

God (and)
“God (and)” opens with a quick series of big hits from everyone before some creative guitar work and drumming come in with the vocals. There is some interesting timing going on with this one. It’s not disjointed, but feels as though it could head that moment at any time — keeping the listener on their toes. There’s a nice slow down just before the two minute mark that’s got some nice chugging riffs as the vocals are shouted in the background. The vocals at just after the three minute tick on the counter are raw and have a more powerful feel to them.

This one runs smoothly from the previous track and is a series of huge hits from the drums and guitars timed nicely with some raw screams. The track shifts to eerie atmospheric noise for the remainder of the minute and a half long track.

“Me” flows in from the previous track with some light riffs and guitar noise. Vocals are screamed well in the background and are barely heard over the din of the noisy textures. It makes for a pretty dramatic entrance before everything comes to the forefront just before 1:30 in the song. Churning guitars lead the way with heavy drums and rolling bass quickly in tow. Layered vocals and the overwhelming feel of suffocating guitars make for a powerful ending to the track and disc.

~ ~ ~

I’m not sure what I was expecting from this disc, but it certainly surpassed anything I had in mind. The raw feel to the vocals and the down tuned, churning guitars work so well together that when you add in the crushing drums it’s nearly too much to handle. This is an impressive debut for Celestine. I can’t wait to hear more from them.

Favorite Tracks:
All of them

Additional Notes: