On the surface, it’s a fun and danceable number we get from Portland darkwave act, Arkham Sunset. But a mere surface level observation belies the deceitfully dark themes that sit beneath the sheen of its exterior.
Led by sole member Gerry Hathaway, Arkham Sunset is relatively new to the scene, but does mighty work with the resources at hand. Champion of the drum machine and a plethora of synth gear, Arkham Sunset has around 7 EPs and albums to its name with sounds that have traditionally ranged within and beyond arm’s length of industrial greats like Skinny Puppy, mongoloids like Devo and many darkwave acts in between. Here, influences are more decidedly goth and extend as far as 1970s ‘Giallo’ film (Italian thrillers) as well as the kink and danger of S&M. The release of ‘Blood In Four Colors’ foreshadows the third full-length album ‘Failure Analysis’ for release in early 2024.
From the moment ‘Blood In Four Colors’ fades in and introduces its percussion and synthwork, we’re met with the hallmarks of a catchy goth club banger. This catchiness is expressed through its synthetic beat and a familiar verse-chorus-verse song structure. But this accessibility also brings with it an indefinable undertone of urban gloom, the kind that only those dressed head to toe in black can convey, not through word, but rather through style.
It’s hard to divorce Arkham Sunset’s ‘Blood In Four Colors’ from predecessors of the 80s and 90s. The shimmering of the intro synths reminisce the sort of keys Type O Negative were famed for throughout the 90s; acting as a passageway between movements and enhancing the drama that underlines the pervasive mournfulness. Such moments exemplified by Arkham Sunset with lyrics like:
I sold my soul for just one kiss
Fatal attraction not to miss
Your hands around my waist
This rope around my neck
The vocals here are the most memorable part of the single. Utilising a four line structure, and ending on a high note. There’s a comfort in the way the tune feels preemptive, like you can call the high notes before they’ve arrived. But deceitfully, with a darkness so well hidden, you can easily find yourself joyfully bouncing along to themes of suicide and despair.
Spacey synths carry this track through to its surprise solo near its end courtesy of Farzin Ajorlou. Along with the catchy goth hit potential and punchy percussion, this track hits in a way similar to the mid 80s work of The Damned and their ‘Phantasmagoria’ era, and even The Sisters Of Mercy.
With an impressive range of synth gear on display, this is definitely a number for the synth nerds, whether for sound or research. Given Arkham Sunset’s persistence over the past few years, something tells me upcoming album ‘Failure Analysis’ will not be their last.