The Arcane Order make a pretty good Strapping Young Lad. The resemblance is startling – barreling, precise, melodic death metal with apocalyptic keyboards and outlandishly over-compressed production/mastering that makes snares sound like gunshots. Kasper Thomsen's vocals even sound like a young Devin Townsend. There are slight differences – more solos, lusher keyboards, and screams that climb into black metal registers.
But, overall, this is Strapping Young Lad minus the smirk – which is perhaps fine, as SYL is on the DL now. The musicianship is fantastic, especially the colorful drumming. "Horizons Buried" has beautifully abstract chords, and keyboards wrap "Eruptions of Red" with an epic warmth that eludes most symphonic metal. But aside from SYL, Gojira, Textures, and Hacride have already paved this road. At least this ride down it is smooth.
The real story, however, is in my inbox. I got this email from Metal Blade:
Metal Blade Records is starting to release ‘Digital Only’ releases, which means these releases will only be available to consumers as digital albums and will not be carried as physical releases in stores. What this means for you is basically that you will only receive these releases as digital downloads to check out for review or interview consideration. We will not be making up physical copies to service as we will not be making physical copies up for sale.
This isn't completely true, as CD's of In the Wake of Collisions are available in Europe. But Metal Blade's American website lists the album only as a "Digital Release." In the US, you can download it from iTunes, Napster, Downloadpunk.com, Sony Connect, and Zune – but you can't find it on CD.
It's a huge deal that a label the size of Metal Blade is doing this. The Arcane Order are not a new band. Their resumes include established acts like Raunchy, Invocator, and Koldborn. In the Wake of Collisions is their second record – but the term "record" is perhaps becoming obsolete. Bands these days receive gold and platinum "records." But actual vinyl is and will always be a niche medium, and CD's are endangered species. Will bands in the future get gold and platinum…MP3's? It's a brave new digital world, and for better or for worse, Metal Blade has jumped in headfirst.