During the five year lapse between Colour Haze albums, Arenna emerged with their full-length debut at the perfect time with Beats Of Olarizu (2011). While it seemed they were simply hatched in perfection, with just the right fuzzy guitar tones, the Spanish heavy psych rockers had been kicking around honing their craft since at least 2005. While the vocals were clearly influenced by Kyuss’ John Garcia and Colour Haze was the most prominent band to expand on those desert rock tones with a Hendrixian flair, Arenna have carved their own niche. In a musical world currently rich with all kinds of psychedelic music, some rooted in classic 60’s songwriting structures, others veering into progressive territories, Arenna are part of an alluring, underground European network who worship the riff, tone and texture, with vocals and hooks taking a backseat, if they’re even there at all. This includes My Sleeping Karma of Germany and Glowsun of France among others, who both also have albums coming out soon.
After four years I didn’t even know their second one was coming. As far as I knew they had disappeared along with the likes of Sungrazer. But suddenly on May 5, there it was, out and available on Bandcamp, a surprise that made my week. Given To Emptiness doesn’t disappoint, progressing to a more nuanced, dynamic sound that’s less direct, more impressionistic, but also more effectively takes you on a journey, especially with the lights low and your full attention. That kind of listening is a luxury I don’t get to do every day, and many people only less, so it’s worth pointing out that the music also works great in the background as you work, cook and live. It’s not so mellow as to blend totally into the wallpaper, but the changes are not jarring, and when they build up to a rocking crescendo, you know it’s coming, but just aren’t sure exactly where it’ll take you. It’s kind of a perfect balance, making it one of the most listenable albums of the year so far.
The monster 10:20 opening track “Butes” taps into Greek mythology and their influences have expanded, with touches of folk, doom and Motorpsycho’s brand of psych prog in “Chroma.” “The Pursuer” shows they were paying keen attention to some of gloriously uplifting moments on Colour Haze’s She Said (2012). Like a lot of their European heavy psych peers, these guys have quite the double lives, playing big festivals to tens of thousands of fans, and then returning to their day jobs. Such is the life of a guitar band in a world where, aside from small subcultural pockets, guitars are considered passe, as if an instrument has an expiration date. Tell that to the folks who play drums. Like with a lot of these bands, chances are slim we’ll get to see them in the U.S. anytime soon. I’m saving my pennies for a trip to Europe for sure.