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>>>   R e v i e w s   >>>   ARAKAIN "Black Jack"

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>>> JOHAN | 2007-10-14 >>>

ARAKAIN "Black Jack"

(1992 Monitor Records)

The third and last vinyl LP by Arakain

Arakain released their albums in a year's intervals back in the early 90's and it is hardly expectable that any band should offer such a strong material every year. After warmly welcome "Thrash The Trash" as well as the sophomore "Schizofrenie" there is "Black Jack", where we can hear a slightly different Arakain. No big changes in the line-up, just a new drummer since „Schizofrenia“, when Štěpán Smetáček was replaced by Marek Žežulka, but the overall appearance of the material and the sound aided by some keyboard and effect elements.

The black disk contains nine tracks with relatively long playing time. Only the title track "Black Jack" comes within 4 minutes, while "Zapomeň" approaches 6 minutes. Opening "Black Jack" is a catchy an rocking song with dramatic keyboard by guest keyboardist Petr Ackermann, in the album context it is still a sort of second line track. "Harlekýn" is a different one and has always been my favourite. Aleš offers an interesting work with vocals, when the first two verses are sung in a placid way, to grow harder with the chorus. That goes for music as well, drums pound (go check the drum sound on vinyl as compared to the CD!!!) and the guitars are up to highest standrads. The best A-side song for me. And the high standard is maintained with "Labyrint", a number of nice breaks, bass guitar stands out, and some sampled sounds occur. A ballad is necessary, of course. "Zapomeň" is nothing like "Šeherezád", but Arakain always did a good job with slow songs. The arrangement of individual instruments is well balanced, so you hear them one after another in short intervals during the slower passages.
The second side is open by "High Attack", which makes me feel just as on the first one, although the unusual solo is worth attention. "Ty se nezdáš" just can't get the right groove, but with the coming of the chorus you get the right drive including fast drums and guitar soloing. Top of side 2 and perhaps the entire record is "Kolonie termitů". Midtempo going slightly faster to climax in the chorus to again polish it off and to prepare the listener for one more does of emotions in another chorus. "Ukolébavka" is an example of experimenting with the sound, starting quiet and adding to the strength. Aleš tries a different voice again, perhaps one of a disappointed guy whose old lady kicked said goodbye. Guitarsolo is a guest courtesy of Petr Janda of Olympic and you can easily tell the difference from the metal axemen. The depressive track deserves a happy compensation for the close, and "Don Quijote" is just the thing. One more hitlike song with strong melodies and outstanding chorus makes you yell along both at shows or when listening to it at home alone. Two verses are sung by the entire band and the strongest passages are solo for Aleš. A nice ending.

The lyrics fall within two groups - those about relationships and the other ones. The best of the former is definitely "Ukolébavka", good job is "Zapomeň", but "Ty se nezdáš" has never been my cup of tea with some not-very-deep wording. Out of the rest let me pick "Harlekýn" and "Kolonie termitů". "Harlekýn" has a sad content describing the feelings of an actor who's lot is to always play a clown. "Kolonie termitů" ("The Termit Colony") - that's us, isn't it? Ok, let's hope that those who visit this underground website do not exactly fall within the characteristics of the greedy crowd. It's still worth giving it a thought. But "Don Quijote" and "Labyrint" also provide nice read, only perhaps "High Attack" and "Black Jack" are nothing to write home about.

The author of the cover is Jiří Urban this time. Maybe an original idea, but not exactly a cover for a metal band. Rear shows the band at the same table with dealt out cards with info on the tracklist, line-up and a strange kind of a bat. Inlay contains lyrics and lots of photos from the studio and concerts.

Sentence? "Thrash The Thrash" is just one and Arakain (in my opinion) have never topped it. "Schizofrenie" was a strong album as well, so maybe "Black Jack" occupies the third place, perhaps together with "Salto Mortale", which was not released on vinyl, unfortunately.

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