Spit On Your Grave / Arkanum, Tarot-Inspired Death Metal

Mexico-based Death Metal quintet Spit On Your Grave returns with their third studio release, Arkanum, which draws thematically on mystical elements, with each track inspired by a different tarot card.

Spit On Your Grave – Arkanum (Concreto Records)

Release Date: 12 April 2024

Words: Jools Green

Spit On Your Grave says Arkanum is a conceptual album that tells the process of a mental detox. “It talks about an internal struggle to restore your inner self,” the band said, “where your demons surface, and everything you believed in is questioned.

“That moment when you realize that for years you have followed someone else’s lead. You’ve had enough and decide to leave everything behind. It’s about losing yourself by being influenced by someone else and the struggle to wake up from that reality.

“Centring the lyrics in this inner fight with yourself, involving depression, anxiety, mistrust, feeling unfairly judged by everyone and having no help around.”

Spit On Your Grave - Arkanum - A mighty dose of Death Metal par excellence.
Spit On Your Grave – Arkanum – A mighty dose of Death Metal par excellence.

Arkanum delivers eight tracks spanning thirty-one minutes, with the band commenting on what each piece is about. Opening on The Infection inspired by The Magician tarot card, lyrically, it looks at the “passive-aggressive manipulation that someone can have over another person, manipulating them to act under their interests, like a puppet, making them believe that they are really their own decisions.”

It is a driving up-tempo track that quickly develops impressive complexities to its sound. Vocally, it is impressive, too, particularly the depth and protraction to the growls whilst maintaining clarity of lyrical content. This is catchily addictive whilst holding fast to its brutal edge.

“Examining the subject of internal grief when you are dethroned from your beliefs, you turn to denial and anger when you see that everything you built and believed in collapses before your eyes. You punish yourself for having lost what kept you standing.”

The Heretic symbolizes the awakening that marks the beginning of personal rediscovery and is inspired by The Tower tarot card. Chugging riffs and soaring growls open. It’s a track that packs a punch sound wise, and I love the complex twists to the construct.

There’s also a hunting melodic aspect, particularly in the second half of the track. Marlene delivers not only her usual brutal ground-shaking growl but also a more feminine, slightly tortured growl as a second voice, which adds an extra vocal dimension.

Inspired by The High Priestess tarot card, which is the source of the cover art inspiration also, Vigilia is the only track with lyrics written and delivered in Spanish. It is about “lost and cloistered memories, those blocked memories that you banned yourself from entering, a guardian inside of you that fights to maintain your sanity as a mother who protects her children with her life.”

It is a powerful track that delivers punchy riffs from the offset, the pace escalating with the arrival of the rapidly delivered vocals. I like the engagingly convoluted ebb and build to this track, which overall oozes ferocity. The second half leadwork is sharp and precise, and the closing breakdowns are punchy but with an eerie undercurrent.

The Devil tarot card, not surprisingly, is the inspiration for Into The Devil’s Realm, looking at how “it is okay to allow yourself to feel rage and anger. That it was enough to have let yourself be trampled and kept submissive for so long. That it is time to let the anger take over you, accepting the evilness that is inside everyone.”

You can sense this in the music initially. As the track opens, the anger simmers, being released cathartically as the track progresses. The vocals are utterly superb here. The deep growls are cavernous, the higher ones acidic, and the cleaner coral chants unnerving.

Musically, it drives, allowing the vocals to create the atmosphere for the greater part. In the second half, there is a superbly hugely impactful eerie lead and coral swathe, bringing added texture and variance to the track.

The next piece, Dark Lullaby, inspired by The Hermit tarot card, is about “the journey of change, in a conscious and calm way, when you finally decide it’s time to leave the old self and begin the path of rediscovering your true self.”

For the greater part, it’s a hypnotic chugger that becomes more complex as it progresses, with the vocal roars cutting through brutally. I love the dark and sinister, subtly melodic undercurrent that appears regularly across this track. It adds suspense and an unnerving quality to the sound.

Regarding the emotion of melancholy, “sometimes it can be difficult to let go of something that you thought you loved, but it hurt you, memories trap you in a loop in time, reminding you that you are not there anymore but it leaves a mark difficult to erase.”

Broken Hourglass, inspired by The Star tarot card, looks at this subject. Riff wise it has a slight Morbid Angel feel as it opens, and this riff reemerges across the track. Overall it maintains a very up-tempo pace despite the reflectively melancholic lyrical content.

There’s an engaging and uplifting technical feel to the riffs in the second half, as well as bleak drops in pace, which makes a great contrast. Overall, it’s an engagingly complex listen.

The penultimate piece, Self Sacrifice, is inspired by The Hanged Man tarot card. It is formed around the last step of this cathartic journey, “letting die to be reborn, every beginning has an end, and this is the moment that allows you to let go to have closure from your past and start your new self.”

The determined, plodding opening pace rapidly builds with complexity creating yet another engaging piece

The final offering ties the whole album together. The March Of The Innocents, inspired by The Justice tarot card, serves as the moral of the entire album. Spit On Your Grave explains that it is “a closing where it does not matter if we did wrong or did right. Justice does not exist. Forgiveness does not exist. Winning or losing does not exist

“We all fight in the same war, a war that has no end and has no winners or losers, living or dying, loving or hating. Being betrayed or having someone to trust does not define us. In the end, we will always be misjudged, and the only thing we need is our inner peace.”

It has an eerily reflective undercurrent to the death drive sound. As always, it’s not straightforward, with sudden direction switches, shifts of pace and complex guitar fills, the final minute dropping away to clean reflective guitar work.

Arkanum is a superbly well-considered, written and delivered album, and with it, Spit On Your Grave delivers a mighty dose of Death Metal par excellence.

Sleeve Notes

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