Arc of Triumph shine light on billionaire greed with new release: ‘The New Adventures of the Superhumans’

Leeds duo Arc of Triumph release their double a-side single this week, The New Adventures of the Superhumans/In My Arms, the first material from the band since their 2021 album Rampjaar.

Picking up the thread laid by their previous two albums, Arc of Triumph’s political leanings are more evident than ever in The New Adventures of the Superhumans. It gives a scathing commentary on society’s inequalities.

The song warns of a dystopian future where the rich are still untouched by the damage to our planet caused almost exclusively by them:

“The final age is looming / so save the superhumans / they haven’t flown this far to lose.”

Although imagining a distant future, the song’s themes are applicable today. Simon Elvin said:

“Inequality is greater than ever. People can’t afford to eat. And the planet is in mortal danger. Yet, billionaires continue to hoard wealth hand over fist. Piling misery and suffering on the vast majority.”

Rory Holl said:

“Sometimes it feels as though there’s nothing you can do. We wanted to document our feelings on the current situation. If it did make anyone think differently, then that would be amazing. But I think most people have made their minds up already.”

Musical influences for Arc of Triumph (made up of Simon Elvin and Rory Holl) are wide-ranging from 70s prog of Yes! and Genesis to 80s electro pop, with a nod towards latter-day Radiohead.

And the “electronic textures and moody synth sounds” described by James R Turner in his review of their second album, Rampjaar, last year are certainly back in this new release.

The song is heavily driven by 80s synth and organ sounds, with hypnotic, delayed guitar lines and glitchy drum machines, giving way to jarring drum rhythms and falsetto vocals.

After a brief hiatus following the release of Rampjaar, the pair were back in the studio in the spring to start work on new material. The double a-side marks the first release for their third album due for release next year. So, watch this space!

In a review of Rampjaar in The London Economic in 2021, Jack Peat described the album as harnessing a “superb technical ability to deliver a futuristic prog-rock album befitting of its time”.

And Superhumans is certainly befitting of its time too. The video imagines the Earth as a dead planet with the only survivors being the privileged few who are able to preserve themselves from the destruction they have caused.

We see the likes of Boris Johnson, Putin, Trump, members of the royal family, Jeff Bezos, Roman Abramovic and Jacob Rees-Mogg escaping the dying Earth. They rocket off in cryotubes to a new planet while the rest of us perish. A metaphor for their financial ability to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

The final chorus imagines how history will judge these people:

“In cryogenic futures / they’ll raise the superhumans / and make them pay for what they’ve done.”

Watch the video to see their fate:

Listen here:

Simon said:

“As well as the emergency of climate change, the way the rich can shield themselves from the problems they cause is reminiscent of the current cost-of-living crisis. We have nurses using foodbanks. We have schools with lower budgets next year than they did in 2015.”

Rory added:

“People are struggling more than ever just to exist. But it doesn’t affect the rich and privileged so it’s hard for them to care. We don’t think people who have grown up in luxury and who have never had to worry about money should be running the country.”

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 (