Out of the diverse and ultra-talented pool of Portland musicians, there sails an unknown ship right into the working harbor. One of feminine ranks, yet donning shiny, grungy and chunky metal on their sleeves, metal usually adorned by their masculine counterparts.

Please welcome to the music scene Arcane Lore, the female psychedelic blues-rock duo of Katie Gilchrest (guitar and vocals) and Brandye Devine (drums).

Listening to their new CD, “Change of Mind,” I am transported back in time to ’60s and ’70s rock. With influences of Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Jefferson Airplane, these girls have captured the essence of what made metal music back in the day.

I’m not sure if one would classify their sound as metal, but the influences are there: A psychedelic, bluesy and distorted guitar delivering an attitude of sorts, playing along with deeply vehement drums.

What’s missing is an overall big wall of sound, likely cascading down and around double-stacked Marshall amps, most often with two guitarists and a bass. But even without all the “bigness” of sound, Arcane Lore has developed its own way of doing things, and it works.

There are 14 tracks on this CD, and they have managed to keep the feel of the album very congruent, as not much changes with the tonal quality of guitar. And because the guitar does not have to play against any other amplified instrument, it is always on target and clear — and loud — but tastefully done. 

There are many dynamics working together on almost every song. The duo spends some time developing the catchy riffs in a song, using melody on guitar and dissonant harmony in voice (think Alice in Chains). Guitar and drum do their dance together, with many stops and staccato beats mixed in with edgy and expressive refrain.

It’s not clear if the backing vocals are sung by Devine, so I am not sure if the sound can be duplicated live, but I sure hope so. It would be my wish to see them expand into a full band with more players on board to thicken the harmonies and give space to Gilchrest, especially, to be able to focus on either singing or playing.

In that way, I could see Arcane Lore exploding this genre out, and along with it, that darned glass ceiling for women metal rockers everywhere.

Kristin DiCara-McClellan is a freelance writer.


filed under: