Review – Arc of Triumph – Rampjaar – by James R Turner

Released in March this year, following up the duo of Rory Holl and Simon Elvins self-titled debut from October 2017, with the additional guitar work of Luke Stephen Smith, their second album, ‘Rampjaar’, sees the band expanding their sound and style.

Stripping the sound back from the guitar heavy debut, this evolution of sound incorporates far more electronics and much longer songs that allow the atmospheric and moody sounds to grow and develop organically.

Starting with the electronic sounds and heavily synths of Heart of Earth, the great use of electronic textures and moody synth sounds and the mix of the electronic undertones and organic vocals works perfectly to create an atmospheric and ambient introduction to the album and shows how far the band have come since their debut release.

In Ahab’s Nightmare sees the guitars kick back in with a sublime heavy riff and lyrics inspired by the book Moby Dick. The song is narrated from Captain Ahab’s point of view and, like a lot of the songs on this album, has some very catchy lyrics and inspired musical sounds that help the song mesh and build as it grows.

The intensity of the music married to some great lyrics makes this an incredibly strong album, there are so many musical layers running through this album that you need to give it several listens before it reveals all it’s mysteries and, even then, you’ll get something different from each track as you delve deeper.

The heavier textured electronic sounds work really well in tandem with the duo’s songwriting, none more so than on the seven minute plus Sleeping in The River. Complex drum rhythms and synth sounds help build it towards it’s mighty conclusion and it just keeps pulling out magical music stops, from a heavy electronic riff where you’d expect the guitar to be to a synth solo straight out of the BBC Radiophonic workshop. This sounds like the bastard child of 90’s Depeche Mode and Nine Inch Nails and the vocals are magnificent throughout, with choral effects mingled with synths bringing the song to its epic finish.

There is a sense of ‘less is more’ throughout this album, where the sparse electronics give room for the songs to grow and, by paring back the sound, it is strikingly different to other albums released this year and it works, allowing the vocals to take centre stage. This an assured and mature second album that really builds on the foundations that their debut laid down. The songwriting and use of effects and textured samples really enhance tracks like the beautiful piano driven The Wisp, which is a haunting and emotive piece of music.

The album closes with the longest track, Looking Down At The Moon, a complex epic that combines the best parts of the band’s albums so far. A gentle guitar riff suddenly builds into a mighty musical explosion, reminding me of singer songwriters like Ed Harcourt or Tom McCrae, along with heart on the sleeve lyrics mixed with complex and intricate musical undercurrents. The shimmering guitar solo on here is worth the price of admission alone as the song just builds and builds to a dramatic and satisfying musical conclusion, the guitar ripping through the music, shredding and driving the song on, this is the absolute definition of a slow build!

There is no bad track on this album and the way each one weaves and flows into the other marks this as an album that needs to be listened and absorbed as its creators intended. A definite ‘headphone’ album where you can appreciate the sonic majesty on show here.

With some of the mighty sounds, intricate musical pieces and dynamic performances, it’s hard to imagine this is the work of a duo and that is what makes Arc of Triumph so good. This is a fantastic follow up to an almighty debut and one that sees the band grow and develop and is an album you have to hear. I think this is definitely one of the standout releases of 2021 and one I keep revisiting and getting something different from it each time.

Released March 19th, 2021

Order from bandcamp here:

▶︎ Rampjaar | Arc of Triumph (bandcamp.com)

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