Arkana, the Lord of the Void. In a world dominated by forcedly-high release rates, algorithm-driven streaming success and daily struggles for relevance, he is a calming force, pushing back against the tide. 2 years after his last project, the Ein Sof EP, he returns to New Dawn Collective with his debut full-length album, Iskatallith.
Anyone who has heard Arkana's music knows what I mean when I say it has to be heard to be believed. Words fall short of the grandiose composition and subtle intricacy in each track; the Iskatallith LP is the finest example of this yet. I got the chance to ask him about his inspirations, as well as his take on the shift in focus of the musical world towards streaming and algorithmic optimisation.
Firstly, I have to touch on the name. What does it mean, if anything? What relation does it have to the storyline of the album?
It’s a word I created! Can you believe there was absolutely NOTHING in the google search results? It’s definitely related to the story but I’d rather not reveal much. In our fictional language it means something like “underground, or hidden fortress”.
This album was a long, long time in the making. How did your vision for the finished piece shift over time, if at all? Did any unforeseen inspirations spring up during the creation process?
Ever since I started music production I’ve wanted to write an album that feels more than just a collection of songs. Each EP I’ve ever done was an attempt at this, but I could never push them past what they are. I wanted this album to be a concrete body of work where each song could be independently captivating, but together would paint the full picture.
At the very beginning, I knew I wanted to make something like this, but it took a long time of trial and error, inspiration seeking, and experimentation to hone in on the sound I wanted. Pulling inspiration from many sources such as Dark Souls (thanks to you Rob lol), LOTR, and many sci-fi/fantasy universes I enjoyed as a kid. It required tremendous patience with myself. As for my vision shifting over time - it did a little bit, but I feel once I had a concrete plan I stuck with it and it didn’t really stray away too much. I think a lot of artists focus on quantity, but I prefer to focus in on one idea and grind at it until it feels like the best version it can be.
Touching again on the long album cycle; it’s very unusual to see such extended periods between releases in the world of algorithm-driven success that we live in. What’s your opinion on platforms such as Spotify placing such emphasis on consistency and high release rate?
The reason for the long album cycle was because I wanted to maximize the Spotify algorithm. For those unaware, Spotify has algorithmic playlists such as “release radar, and “discover weekly” where Spotify will push your music to people who are actively listening to music related to yours. I knew that if I would have released the album all at once it would have flopped completely.
For example, I’m following this artist by the name of Alon Mor. He released his album Lands of Delight last year (which is an incredible album btw you should all check it out) and he decided to drop one single, and then release the entire thing at once. Unfortunately... his album didn’t perform very well on Spotify which made me realize I had to release my album differently if I had any chance for success with such a niche sound.
As for my thoughts on Spotify… I think Spotify is 100% the best music platform in the world right now. Without those algorithmic playlists a lot of artists would be doomed, and unable to make any type of living at all. With that being said I’m not much of a fan of the philosophy of pushing artists to release singles monthly. I believe a byproduct of this type of pressure will result in all around lazy art.
How do you want your listeners to feel having listened to the album? Was this a consideration during the creation process?
Well, I can’t control how anyone feels but I hope that they would feel the same way I felt listening to some of my favorite artists growing up. Artists like Avenged Sevenfold, S.O.A.D, Linkin Park, 30 Seconds to Mars, and Green Day. They put me in a state of absolute awe and motivated me to hopefully create something that would give others a similar feeling - a plethora of emotions that push them to do something positive for the world.
After releasing what I’m sure many listeners will consider to be your magnum opus, where does Arkana go from here? Onwards and upwards?
Definitely onwards and upwards! I have big plans for this project that may take years to fully realize. Slow but steady wins the race. In the short term, there are still some things we’ll be unveiling related to the Iskatallith project, so it’s not quite over yet! I think with Iskatallith I bit off a little more than I could chew, so for a while I may do some smaller scale and fun projects.
Finally, have you got anything else in the works for us to look forward to, or are we going to have to wait to hear more from you?
Yep! I’ve already started some new concepts but I can’t say much about them. Aside from my own projects, I’ll be working on some stuff for New Dawn Collective's upcoming releases. Without them, Iskatallith wouldn’t have been possible.
Stream the Iskatallith LP here: