For two decades, Artcell has been one of Bangladesh's biggest bands. Their blend of heavy metal and progressive rock, which weaves in elements of classical, jazz, and traditional Bangladeshi music, reshaped the music scene for an entire generation.
They expanded the sonic universe of youth culture through songs with complex instrumental passages, intricate guitar riffs, and intense drumming. Their poetic lyrics explored themes of love, life, and social issues in ways that felt searingly true and relevant. For thousands of Bangladeshi youth, their unique sound was the start of a newfound appreciation of music.
But the band itself has had its ups and downs over the years. Their breakout success was followed by a long period of inactivity, during which they only released a few singles and performed live. Their last full-length release, Oniket Prantor, came out in 2006. For 17 years, their fans – the Artcell Army – have had to dig deep to stick by their favourites as new music release dates were announced and backtracked.
Now, the band's third studio album – Otritio – is finally here, bringing six new songs from the legendary group. Though it may seem short compared to prior releases, it compensates for it in the sheer quality of the music and the pristine production value.
The album opens with 'Protiti', a nearly two-minute-long atmospheric track that sets the tone and sound for the rest. From there, Artcell takes the listener on an adrenaline-pumping journey through a range of musical styles and genres, from classic rock to grunge and even death metal. Each song testifies to the band's skill and creative progression, showing how they have kept their signature style while incorporating new elements.
'Baksho Bondi', which starts with a clean, classical guitar shuffle before shifting to brutal riffs and complex percussion, is a standout. The crisp instrumentals take centre stage, leading to seven minutes of headbanging heaven.
'Biprotip' raises the energy as the band introduces its newfound footing. The song's concept – from the way it layers all its sounds to the build-ups, breakdowns, and harmonies – comes together to make a catchy, unique piece that will surely be a hit at live shows.
'Smritir Ayna' and 'Oshomapto Shantona' are quintessential rock, but the real dark horse is the album's titular track, 'Otritio'.
The 11-minute behemoth is a rollercoaster of emotions that winds through classic rock n' roll, alt-rock, grunge, and even a little growling death metal vocal as it keeps listeners on their toes. It has all the makings of a new classic, putting the band's artistry and experimentation on display.
Despite the verve and diversity of the album, with all its peaks and troughs, the consistent element throughout is Kazi Asheqeen Shaju's relentless drumming. His ability to play at unmatched speeds with immense precision while throwing in the occasional off-kilter fill truly elevates the entire album.
Otritio is a bold and promising addition to Artcell's iconic discography, proving that the band is no sleeping giant. It's essential for any member of the ABC generation (Artcell-Black-Cryptic Fate) and is a thrilling introduction for those who missed the band's heyday of the 2000s.
This article is part of Stripe, bdnews24.com's special publication focusing on culture and society from a youth perspective.