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Arcane Roots: Live In London

If nothing breaks... British trio continue in earnest despite founding member's departure.

The chanting begins for Arcane Roots tonight before the band have even stepped out under the lights. The venue is rammed, they’ve sold it out, and it’s not long before the condensation is dripping off the ceiling from the heat of bouncing bodies in front of the stage.

Since drummer and founding member Daryl Atkins announced in June that he would be stepping away from his kit, singer/guitarist Andrew Groves and bassist Adam Burton are joined on this run by skin-whacker Jack Wrench. He’s got his work cut out for him here, playing first with his own band Dynamics, this evening’s main support, then coming back for the headline slot. Impressively, he never plays with anything less than total commitment, absolutely smashing his way through an energy-intensive set.

The Roots open with the emo-core of Second Breath, getting the crowd moving from the off and then, pausing only for a brief, “Hello, we’re Arcane Roots,” they launch into the hammering mayhem of Over & Over. Sacred Shapes inspires such enthusiastic pogoing that Groves pauses the song to make sure no one is in danger of being crushed in the heaving mass.

(Image credit: Will Ireland)

The sound emphasises the trio’s power, with Adam Burton’s deep, rumbling bass providing relentless propulsion. Frontman Groves has a high, distinctive voice when singing clean, and he makes relatively scant use of his scream tonight, which plays both to his vocal strengths and also brings out the melodies in the music. That’s not to say they’ve lost the emo elements in their lyrics – Leaving, one of three tracks they play tonight from new EP Heaven & Earth, is full of heartfelt anguish, matched by the angst of You Are.

There’s some sense of a formula at work in the songwriting: most tracks feature a quiet section where Groves sings softly over an undistorted guitar line, before they build up with more volume, concluding with a massive, slamming breakdown. It works like a charm live. “Wait for it, London,” says Groves as the crowd seethe with anticipation ahead of the climactic riff storm in Energy Is Never Lost, Just Redirected.

As a guitarist, Groves has a real sense of dynamics, conjuring a world of sounds from his instrument, and Hell & High Water is an anthem just waiting for an arena. If Nothing Breaks, Nothing Moves wraps up the main set, before Belief provides a furious encore.

Losing a founding member can destabilise and demoralise any band, but Arcane Roots remain undiminished and irrepressible.

After starting his writing career covering the unforgiving world of MMA, David moved into music journalism at Rhythm magazine, interviewing legends of the drum kit including Ginger Baker and Neil Peart. A regular contributor to Prog, he’s written for Metal Hammer, The Blues, Country Music Magazine and more. The author of Chasing Dragons: An Introduction To The Martial Arts Film, David shares his thoughts on kung fu movies in essays and videos for 88 Films, Arrow Films, and Eureka Entertainment. He firmly believes Steely Dan’s Reelin’ In The Years is the tuniest tune ever tuned.