Adam Arcuragi's third full-length CD begins with the sound of a woman leading a group of children in a wolf howl, which turns out to be both a welcome, lighthearted moment in what is otherwise very heavy going and an unintended preview of the strained singing that mars most of the rest of the disc. Arcuragi is nothing if not ambitious on Like a Fire That Consumes All Before It…, a title that represents a sort of double word score in that it is both a line from The Iliad and the name of a painting by Cy Twombly. Each song seems intended to be an anthem, usually with busy (if largely acoustic) instrumentation and a ragged choir that comes in loudly on oft-repeated choruses. But working against the big intentions are the ramshackle playing; the rough production and mixes, and, inevitably, Arcuragi's rusty, overwrought tenor upfront. The advent of Bob Dylan in the 1960s may have suggested that, from then on, anybody could be a professional singer, especially if he wrote his own songs, but there are limits to everything. In "I Called," the endlessly repeated chorus goes "I called, and you didn't come," but it's hard to imagine anyone coming if they'd been called by Arcuragi's voice. Strangely, he calms down considerably on "The Birds Will Follow," demonstrating that when he sticks to a more natural register, he does have an acceptable (if occasionally flat) singing voice. But that's the 11th of 12 tracks on an album largely given over to histrionic caterwauling.
Like a Fire That Consumes All Before It... Review
by William Ruhlmann