Reflecting on the legacy of Arcane Roots

When a band breaks up after a long and hugely successful career, a certain cluster of emotions usually comes to mind among fans: nostalgia for the years spent with their music; pride in their incredible accomplishments; and ultimately, acceptance that it is that band’s time to go. Yet a decidedly different feeling accompanies yesterday’s news that British progressive rock band Arcane Roots will be calling it quits. That’s not to say that the band’s music didn’t leave an incredible impact… to the contrary, they were one of the most breathtakingly original and captivating bands to grace progressive music in years. Yet the tragedy of their breakup at this particular moment is that this felt like a band which, for all their successes thus far, was just getting started.

Fans who recently discovered Arcane Roots’ music may be shocked to learn that the band actually formed in 2006, when frontman Andrew Groves and original drummer Daryl Atkins met while studying music technology at Reigate College. After years spent shopping demos and slowly building a fanbase, it was really the release of the Left Fire EP in 2011 when the band began to make a name for itself in the UK scene. Songs such as “You Are” and “Habibty” displayed a shockingly fully-formed sound for such a young band, blending progressive rock technicality with a huge emotional center and soaring stadium rock hooks. Even though Arcane Roots wore their inspirations on their sleeve, the combination felt immediately distinctive and fresh. That same year, the band released a daring cover of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, which showed that they were unafraid of taking a sledgehammer to rock traditions, and rebuilding them in their own mold.

Arcane Roots’ full-length debut album, Blood & Chemistry, released in 2013, and it showed a band already at the top of their game. Unlike so many other modern progressive bands, who seem to push for ever-denser arrangements and more complex instrumentation just to show off what they can do, Arcane Roots always rooted their technicality in passionate emotion and incredibly strong songwriting. This was a band which truly took the listener on an emotional roller coaster with every twist and turn of a song, and even on their debut album, spellbinding tracks like “Belief” and “Resolve” led one to belief the band was destined for superstardom. The 2015 Heaven & Earth EP continued to push Arcane Roots’ signature sonic blend, while giving them their first taste of U.S. rock radio play with the single “If Nothing Breaks, Nothing Moves”. The track “Slow Dance” may remain the finest example of the breathtaking tension between their emotionally bare lyricism and breathtaking instrumentation, and is well worth a listen for anyone who has yet to discover this band’s incredible prowess.

Last year, Arcane Roots shifted gears with their second full-length album, Melancholia Hymns. While the album’s greater focus on electronics and ambient soundscapes initially divided some of the group’s fanbase, the release of the full record saw continued critical acclaim, and the band proved that they could evolve their sound without missing a beat. Their upcoming final release, the Landslide EP (out September 14), will consist of re-workings of several tracks from Melancholia Hymns.

I had personally never gotten the chance to experience Arcane Roots’ incredible live show, and I had vowed that if they ever did a proper US tour, I would be there in a heartbeat. While I am saddened that I will not get the chance, I am more saddened by the fact that so many progressive rock fans in the United States may now never get to experience this band’s riveting and original body of work. Yet I am optimistic that their incredible musical legacy will only continue to grow after the band is gone. Truly original and boundary-pushing rock music doesn’t always find the audience it deserves at the time it is released, but it is the kind of music that stands the test of time and becomes iconic. That is a fate that I believe Arcane Roots deserves.