Written by Valkyrjiaa
Arklay Mountains – May The Dark Shine Your Way
> Instrumental/melodic metal
> Ontario, Canada
> Released February 10
> Syrup Moose Records
Come, sit by the fire and warm yourself, traveler. Take rest and enjoy the music devised by the boys in Arklay Mountains. Releasing a 10-track, 40-minute vision fuelled by the grim and dark atmosphere of the Dark Souls saga, May the Dark Shine Your Way is both a journey and an otherworldly experience. For fans of the FromSoft empire, to those simply here for a musical excursion, Arklay Mountains are proof you don’t have to go ‘pro’ to be rock solid at what you do.
“A Song for Sif” is stunning as the second track to this album, brushing back the curtain to expose this monumental creation in ode to the legendary beast. This song wields intensity and enigmatic presence, just as steadily as the wolf Sif wields his mighty blade. The mixture of atmospheric noise and sludgy, dooming instrumentals carries this track beyond its roots to one perfectly suited for any background in exploration, campaigning, and beyond.
“The Mighty Heart of Sellsword Luet” is a short, heavy track representing a brave and ferocious warrior. The song begins like a rupture of flames, a perfect inauguration for this summon, and one who can certainly match the temperament of any foe. From shield to sword, stun to swing, this track encapsulates the ferocity and might of an unsung ally who always stands at the ready, willing to fight.
To embrace darkness is “To Sing the Song of Poison”. Another short track but one that dances on the edge of madness and descent. Falling into a crumbling heap, it’s meticulously mastered in rugged riffs and immersive drum beats – a track that easily slinks through your veins until you succumb to its power.
Ever mindful, and always watching the fire, “Vengeance for the Fire Keeper” is a track drenched in pain and anger. It moves swiftly from darkened hatred, to the hunt in a melody that’s both terrifying and eerie. You fear for the one responsible, knowing simply from sound, the wrath they have invoked. One of the longer tracks on this album, “Vengeance for the Fire Keeper” is an immersive journey that’s meant to give you a first-hand perspective on the fury to be unleashed. Weighty bass combines with distortion to make for a fast-breathed, blood-pumping adrenaline rush that results in destructive imagery with every blink. As this track presses on, the pitch soars and you can’t help but feel a bit paranoid, as if you, yourself have done something to invoke this darkness.
“A Lament for Astorias” is a grief-stricken track just as the title suggests, for when you finally come upon the Abysswalker in the game, he has nearly been fully engulfed. The guitars on this track strum high in ode of this legendary hero. It’s a painful track, one known and unknown for those who have experienced this turmoil and those along for the musical journey. It holds the memory of honour and greatness in a brilliantly executed set of riffs, while still gasping a melody of sorrow by the helm in hopes of laying it to rest.
The mere imagery that comes with “Catacombs” is both fearsome and fascinating. You need not know the details to experience its dark, dank, and creepy presence in order to be touched by its rotting fingers. With dimly lit halls that stretch as far as guitar strings linger, it’s both a sight and sound that sends a chill down your spine. This track is as atmospheric as it gets, building on that unseen fear and tension to blend a mastery of senses that’s truly conquers the mind.
“Long Live the Lord of Cinder” is truly a link to the flame. A track rich in velvety melody and layering instrumentals as it honours the Age of Fire, and those chosen to be alit. In a less philosophical or literal sense, this track is a wonderfully crafted honour. It’s as if you stand in a shrouded graveyard, a candle flickering in hand with a flame that wavers in the heavy wind and rain but never falters. Riffs that shred like a serrated edge cut through memories like stained cloth, snuffing out the shadows in a rupture of fire and ash.
“Neverending Cycle” is a menacing loop of elusive guitars and cosmic-level tension, ticking off small chimes on distorted chords like some foreboding prophecy. Kindle the flame, let darkness return, rekindle the flame. As riffs stretch towards the heavens, the creeping melody moves like bubbles, breaching the surface as piano keys before ever emerging from the depths. However, when the cycle threatens to break, the beat kicks in to give us a true heavy metal crusade. A battle of torrential riffs and thundering drums batter the rain-like bass that relentlessly strikes us down and we’re forced to seek shelter. One of the heaviest and most divinely composed on the album, this track offers up a hefty plate of frightening imagery and skillful musical talent that comes in endless helpings.
The finale to our journey comes on “Seigmyer’s Last Stand”. The harmonious quiver of flickering white flame and soundscape is both sorrowful and bewitching. It’s the perfect way to end this album both from a Fromsoft perspective and a musical one. This stunning overture rivals that of cinematography greats as we climb the stairs toward our final battle. The tension rises so delicately as consequence and choice weighs on your mind. The rising drums that soon signal your decision wain beneath cosmic fret work, thrusting you forward until you can no longer be shaken. It’s cryptic and so deeply moving that every blink carves out striking images of battle and prophetic fortune. The final blow, the broken, splintered shield, and the soul-shattering cries. It’s slow, almost doom-like as it crawls toward the end, giving us a blazing example of the musical grace and skill that Arklay Mountains have to offer.
THE BOTTOM LINE
This album is phenomenal. I LOVE instrumentals and game-inspired pieces but, for it to involve something as apocalyptic and dark fantasy like the Dark Souls series was something entirely otherworldly. It’s heavy, ethereal, intense, and confident in its composition and delivery on tracks that are inspired but, don’t necessarily need to be known is top notch, showing the metal world that sometimes the unexpected is beyond exceptional. I have never pre-ordered something so quickly, so give the guys in Arklay Mountains a listen to quench all your atmospheric, fire-kindling desires with May The Dark Shine Your Way.