Released: 2015, Self-released
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
For someone as relatively obscure and out of the way as Arbitrator mastermind Rob Kukla, one could surmise he is either really well connected, really lucky, really wealthy or just really ballsy – or some combination thereof. At least that would explain how this essentially one-man “band,” who hails from Calgary and has but one self-released EP under his belt from 2011, was able to round up the likes of hot-shot drummer Dirk (Soilwork, etc.) Verbeuren, English artist Colin (Exodus, Fleshgod Apocalypse) Marks and Swedish producer/mixer/engineer Jens (Amon Amarth, Kreator) Bogren, among others, for Arbitrator’s full-length debut.
But by whatever means, got them he did for what turns out to be a promising effort that sets the bar fairly high for whoever fills out the ranks down the road. While Arbitrator recorded The Consummate Ascendancy EP – which was mixed and mastered by Dan Swanö, so another good get - as a duo, it has pretty much just been Kukla ever since. At least until now.
On Indoctrination of Sacrilege, he handles rhythm guitar, bass and lead vocals. Along with Verbeuren, the lineup here is rounded out by lead guitarist Myles Malloy (who also guested on Ascendancy), programmer Connor ORT Linning and producer Sacha Laskow. Bogren mastered the finished product. Hence, Sacrilege sounds like a genuine album and not some mere vanity project, even if the pieces came from sessions recorded here and there and got stitched together.
Arbitrator's so-called “industrial death metal” comes largely as advertised, with Linning providing ample - though not especially intrusive, except on the shortish closing instrumental “The Burning Sands of His Kingdom” - electronic tinges, keyboards and samples to go along with the complex clamor Kukla has concocted. The metal component brings together melodic death metal that at times – and perhaps not surprisingly – echoes Soilwork at their feistiest, the grandiosity of Septicflesh or old Nocturnus and the blasphemous fury of Behemoth, with the blackened edges to boot.
“Epic” is the word that perhaps best describes Sacrilege, as most of its six tracks are monsters – save for the aforementioned “Burning Sands” - clocking in at around seven technically demanding minutes each. “Serpent of The Styx,” with its techno-fied intro, approaches the nine-minute mark. But Kukla's hired guns handle the tangled webs of his compositions with aplomb, especially Verbeuren who navigates the time changes and ever-shifting moods – from the blast-beat strafe of the awesome “For That Which May Appease Lions” and the deliberate chug of “Profaned and Perfected” to the turbulence of “Styx” - like the wily veteran he is.
While some of the songs – notably “Styx” and “Profaned” - stagger a bit under the weight of everything that gets piled onto them, Kukla's crafty enough to make sure there's some sort of hook to keep things moving forward. And if all else fails, his commanding Schuldiner-esque growl never lets things lag.