The Arusha Accord - Juracan (Cover Artwork)

The Arusha Accord

Juracan (2018)

Metal Injection

The Arusha Accord, on paper at least, don’t make the easiest sell, it could be argued. A band that hadn’t released any new material since 2009’s The Echo Verses, has trimmed 2 members from its previous lineup & ultimately, who live in the oft-maligned tech/math metal category. You might well have an idea of what they might sound like based on that. It’s very unlikely however, that your presumption would be accurate, given what the Arusha Accord sound like in 2018.

Dipping back a bit, in 2008/2009 when the band first emerged into the scene, they were the embodiment of what tech metal at that time was aiming to be; fast, heavy, wilfully hard to grasp and somehow, surprisingly emotive. The Arusha Accord had all of this nailed, but the thing that listeners often came away with was a sense of being impressed more than being taken in by the songs. Having seen them at the time of those first releases, I can attest to the fact that their live show was equally spasmodic, adrenaline-fuelled and technically mind-boggling. But the band have grown up in the intervening years, it seems. With that maturity comes a greater sense of melody, and with it - a much more mellifluous and cohesive sound overall.

But don’t all the math/tech heads out there get too worried. The band are still more than capable of ripping your face off with their blitzkrieg-style technical assault - the opening of the EP deals in just this sort of thing as if to evidence it. ‘Blackened Heart’ arguably sees the band at their most similar to earlier releases. Vocalist Paul Green’s anguished screams immediately precede the signature Arusha Accord stabbing, staccato sound, easing old fans back in, but introducing new listeners with something of a baptism of fire. However, even at peak math in the opening salvo, there are hooks to grab hold of, and by the time you hit the mid point of the song, then we’re really seeing the evolution of the band’s sound. Prominent synth lines, an almost anthemic refrain and a more conventional sound to the song’s outro. I was fascinated by this point, I admit.

Next up is ‘Vultures’, which starts in a similar mould to the opener, but very rapidly the band latch onto another strong melodic thread. It’s still impossible to tell where the song is going to go next, but it sits in exactly the right spot between challenging and sounding natural. There are shades of nu-metal (dare I say it) to the vocals & tone here – I especially hear Incubus in the second half of the song, believe it or not, but with way more going on. However, after the opening pair of songs which feel like natural bedfellows, things start getting really interesting…

Anyone familiar with the latter could draw a comparison between the intro to ‘The Road (Amor Vincit Omnia – Part 1)’ and Tool’s ‘Vicarious’. The unusual time signature, the bass and guitar tone conjuring a portentous atmosphere and the ethereal vocals that drift over the band are all familiar, but here, the song serves as almost a bridge between the old and the new. Both thematically and to a certain extent, literally – with ex co-vocalist Alex Green (no relation) featuring on the first few tracks but not the second half of the EP. The good news is that Paul Green has honed his craft over the intervening years with his other band; Devil Sold His Soul, meaning he has the range and ability to serve all aspects of the band’s new material.

Which leads me neatly onto exactly that – the final 3 tracks of the EP showcase the newest incarnation of The Arusha Accord and frankly, I’m pretty excited about it. The 3 tracks are hugely varied in their style and approach (one is 3 mins, one is 1 min & the final is 7 mins for a start) but the main thing that grabs me is how well-rounded the trio of songs feels. Almost like an EP within an EP. Through the 3 songs, the sense of melody is inescapable. The hooks, both musical and vocal are incredibly strong and the overall composition feels far more considered and deliberate than some of the earlier material. Reducing the band to 4 core members (Paul Green – vocals, Luke Williams – bass, James Clayton – guitar, Mark Vincent – drums) may have actually helped condense the band’s sound, on this evidence.

At various times across the EP’s 23-odd minutes, there are many moments that will remind you of other bands – but the really impressive thing is how disparate those influences often are, and even more so, that TAA never feel like they’re aping anyone. They maintain a real sense of self throughout. I’m typically a little wary of ever saying a band has ‘matured’ as it often denotes a lack of fire in the belly, but that’s not the case here. The fact that this is the first of four planned EP’s shows how keen the band are to keep pushing boundaries in their work. Paul Green explained they called the EP ‘Juracan’ “Due to the turbulent time we had with this record. I think chaos and disorder sums that phase up perfectly”. But you wouldn’t know it from the result – because it’s as strong, ambitious and exhilarating a release as the band have ever produced in my opinion.