Monastic Doom inventors Arð return with their highly anticipated sophomore full-length “Untouched by Fire”. As a first glimpse of their new masterpiece, the Northumbrian band reveal the lyric video ‘Cursed to Nothing but Patience’ as the first single taken from the forthcoming new album, for which the release date April 26, 2024 has been carved in runes.
On “Untouched by Fire”, Arð narrate the tale of another Northern saint, the Anglo-Saxon warrior-king Oswald, also called Whiteblade, who united the lands of Bernicia and Deira, and reigned over the thus newly created Kingdom of Northumbria between the years 633 and 642.
Arð ‘Cursed to Nothing but Patience’ taken from the album “Untouched by Fire”: https://youtu.be/d_QU-c_uqpA
Arð comment: “The opening track ‘Cursed to Nothing but Patience’, like all of the tracks on the new album, went through many stages of development as it took shape before I was finally satisfied”, mastermind Mark Deeks explains. “All of the elements that make up the sound of Arð are gathered here, but there are also some new, almost ‘progressive’ details added to the mix. It’s a mammoth nine minute journey that to me sets the tone for some of the darker atmospheres in this album. Patience is always rewarded.”
Historical background: Æthelfrith, who became king of Bernicia around 592AD, is the first ruler of a part of the lands that we now know as Northumbria with any kind of detailed historical records written about him. He married Acha from the royal line of the rival kingdom Deira, which is another major part of what would soon become Northumbria. After 12 years of ruling Bernicia, Æthelfrith also laid claim on the throne of Deira on behalf of his wife. This forced Acha’s brother Edwin into exile. There are stories of Æthelfrith sending messengers to Rædwald, the East Anglia king, who is largely held to be the lord buried in the great mount of Sutton Hoo, with a bounty on Edwin’s head. When Æthelfrith was killed at the Battle of the River Idle around 616, Edwin saw an opportunity to exact revenge. This forced Acha to flee north with some of her children including the young Oswald. They found refuge in the powerful Irish kingdom of Dal Riada on the west coast of Scotland. Oswald formed close ties with his hosts and fought for them in both Ireland and Scotland where his bravery supposedly earned him the nom de guerre Lamnguin, ‘Whiteblade’. During this period, Oswald also spent time in the influential monastery of Iona, a small island off the western coast of Scotland. This centre of the Columban paruchia (a network of monasteries particular to Irish Christianity) received patronage from both the powerful Irish Uí Néill dynasty and Dal Riada. The Germanic warrior converted to Christianity, which gained him mighty allies in the north. Patiently Oswald was biding his time to return home to win a kingdom.
Tracklist: 1. Cursed to Nothing but Patience 2. Name Bestowed 3. Hefenfelth 4. He Saw Nine Winters 5. Beset by Weapons 6. Casket of Dust
Arð are of Northumbria. With their eagerly awaited sophomore album “Untouched by Fire”, the inventors of monastic doom present another stunning milestone on their fast rising trajectory. Both musically and lyrically, mastermind Mark Deeks has climbed to new heights.
Arð continue on their mission to explore the culture, heritage, and identity of the Northern English lands of Northumbria. The debut album “Take Up My Bones”, followed the legend and century-long wanderings of the relics of Lindisfarne saint, Cuthbert (634–687). The tale narrated on the new full-length shines a light on a very different kind of saint. It revolves around the warrior king Oswald (604–642), who forged Northumbria with fire and sword by uniting the kingdoms of Bernicia and Deira. With powerful allies of the Irish kingdom of Dal Riada on the west coast of Scotland, excellent diplomatic skill and the martial prowess of a warrior who had fought battles both in Ireland and Scotland, where his bravery supposedly gained him the honorary name ‘Whiteblade’, Oswald was widely regarded as the most powerful Anglo-Saxon king by his contemporaries. It was most likely he, who ended the British Celtic kingdoms in the North and expanded Germanic rule in all directions. On “Untouched by Fire”, Arð trace Oswald’s rise to power from his exile as a youth in Dal Riada due to a family feud, via his victorious battles to conquer the lands that his father had claimed until his founding of Northumbria.
Musically, Arð stay broadly true to their original doom course. The signature ‘monkish’ choirs also remain prominently present as is to be expected from a musician who works as a choir arranger and conductor among other occupations such as bestselling author, teaching the piano, and playing keyboards in leading UK black metal act WINTERFYLLETH. Yet Deeks has also added new elements for example well-placed sprinkles of prog throughout the album. The compositions on “Untouched by Fire” reflect the gained experience and confidence of their mastermind in the sonic mirror of a more focused songwriting and stronger dynamics. This evolution is aided by the powerful and organic production courtesy of Markus Stock (EMPYRIUM, THE VISION BLEAK) as Arð recorded the album at Klangschmiede Studio E.
The story of Arð began when Mark Deeks, who had earned his PhD in Philosophy on the topic of “National Identity in Northern and Eastern European Heavy Metal”, noted that an avalanche of metal bands from Scandinavia referred to the history, myth and sagas from the Viking age but there was hardly anything comparable for the North of England. His choice of insular doom metal as the ideal medium for his ideas is locally well rooted, with pioneering acts of the genre like PARADISE LOST and MY DYING BRIDE hailing from the area of ancient Northumbria that included what is today Yorkshire.
When Deeks started Arð in the year 2019, the composer did not dare to hope for what was to happen the coming years even in his wildest dreams. His demos soon gained him a label and the first print run of the debut album “Take Up My Bones” (2022) sold out before the album even hit the stores. Several print runs followed and limited editions went quickly as well. The first shows of the band for example at Prophecy Fest in Balve, Germany spread an excellent reputation of Arð as a live act by word of mouth like a wildfire. The band was not only featured in the global metal and music press, but also got interviewed for German state television, renowned UK newspaper The Guardian and mentioned by BBC as well as other British media outlets for their special Organic Doom Show for which Deeks had rearranged tracks from “Take Up My Bones” to be performed by band and a real organ in Huddersfield.
Although the rise of Arð, who took their name from an Old English word meaning “native land” in the dialect of the Anglian Kingdom of Northumbria, has already been steep; it is bound to receive a massive boost.
With the sophomore album “Untouched by Fire”, Arð have raised their own bar by several notches. Perfectly arranged monastic doom songs with high dynamics and pristine songwriting have found their match in a massive production. Close your eyes and let the Northumbrians take their listeners to an age when Germanic warrior kings carved out new kingdoms with sword and fire – and a new god by their side from whom they demanded victory in battle! A bloody feast for the ravens, a golden treasure for the ears!
Recording line-up: Mark Deeks – lead & backing vocals, rhythm guitars, piano, keyboards, bass guitar // Guest musicians: Dan Capp (WOLCENSMEN) – lead guitar, acoustic guitar, backing vocals / Callum Cox (ATAVIST) – drums / Robina Huy – cello / Beverley Palin – Northumbrian pipes on ‘Beset by Weapons’
Live line-up: Mark Deeks – lead vocals, rhythm guitars / Chris Naughton – rhythm guitars, backing vocals / Mark Doyle – lead guitars / Kostas Panagiotou – piano / Nick Wallwork – bass guitar / Jeff Singer – drums
Recording, Mix & Mastering: Markus “Schwadorf” Stock at Klangschmiede Studio E, Mellrichstadt (DE) / Artwork & layout by Dan Capp
Available formats: “Untouched by Fire” is available as a hardcover 36-page 2CD+DVD (feat. the full Organic Doom Vol. 1 concert) artbook, on Digipak CD, and as ltd. gatefold “Embers of the Kingdom” clear vinyl LP, and as gatefold black vinyl.