Review – Arcanum Obsidian Cleric

John Tron Davidson
January 31, 2020
February 10, 2021

The snow was genuine – a felt coating that gave the city a muffled feel. Though grim in its vigil, the shape appeared immobile, at least for now.

– Hiroshige – Kinryuzan Temple in Asakusa, 1856

One of the most magical aspects of the Plectroverse is that those within it have chosen the Life. Not for everyone is the long, hard road of the plectrier, a road filled with unforeseen financial costs, often endless dismissal by the pick-unaware, littered with countless prototypes that didn’t make it. However, HR! will always encourage anyone to walk the path, knowing that devotion to the art and the creations that it yields are the true reward. So it is with Arcanum Plectra, a company begun by real-life friend of your neighbourhood plectrologist. Today, I’ll be turning the microscope on the Obsidian version of his Cleric shape, a pitch-black pick of dark intent, so without further ado, let’s go.

It’s worth a bit of backstory here. Arcanum creator Nadz plays guitar for Devonian metallers Ashen, and before that he played bass with HR! in God Of Morning. During this period he was an avid exponent of the Jim Dunlop Tortex 0.50mm, a floppy red thing beloved of acoustic guitarists. At my unrelenting insistence he came round and got his hands on the collection, testing much and many things. Openly inspired by the likes of Brock Little at BHL, Alexis Radeo of Iron Age and Cruz Camacho of Woodland Cast, Nadz decided to make his own picks, and has gone from denouncing rigid picks as nonsense to being unable to play anything under 2mm. Checkmate thin picks, as the Italian might say. Fast forward to the present and I’m staring at the Obsidian, my most recent acquisition of his, and assessing it objectively. After all, there’s no sense in not reporting the facts, and I’m determined to be honest with the community at all times. So, with that in mind, let’s talk about the Cleric.

Hand-cut and finished from cross-cast Acrylic, this opaque operator clocks in at 2.8mm, and is handsomely presented. The front and back are sanded to a subtle roughness, with polished striking edges leading to a tip that lies somewhere between the Dunlop Jazz XL and V Picks Jalapeno in sharpness terms. The top is swept in a cresting wave, a signature of all Arcanum Plectra since their inception. While this pick has most definitely been designed with electric playing in mind, there’s no reason to prevent its use elsewhere. Perhaps it’s just the colour, but there’s an almost unscrupuluous air to the Obsidian, bordering or untrustworthiness. It reminds me of the shady merchant in a movie, who knows many secrets, and gladly turns the protagonist over to their pursuers in the name of profit.

That’s not to slight it in any manner – everyone loves a quality villain. The Obsidian led me down melodic paths I wouldn’t normally take, and despite my creative bent for the grand and dramatic, there’s something sinister about its feel. As this isn’t my only Arcanum and the company is very new, I can state that this feel doesn’t permeate the rest of Nadz’s work, and that the Obisidian stands alone in this regard. Intent aside, it behaves like a quality acrylic plectrum – slick, a little chirpy, and leaning towards the forecful side, closer to Kirinite than normal acrylic. Side by side with the pvrple Crystal Shard, I found the Obsidian to be more dense, more mid-focused and more determined than its toppier, happy-go-lucky counterpart. My only real complaint is the grip, in which I am in the minority – as a player with relatively dry hands, I don’t bond as well with this surface as I do with the gloss finish conventionally applied to acrylic. Those of you with more moisture in your palms will grip this thing with ease.

Is it good? Absolutely. Is it good for everything? No, but acrylic is rarely my number one choice for acoustic or bass work. Taken in the context of an electric pick rippling with purpose, this is a top bit of gear, and a genuine must for anyone to get their hands on a distinctive, high quality plectrum. Those of you already jonesing for a Jazz III version I can confirm that it’s in the works, and, almost as if we’d had an actual conversation about it in the real world, there’s a rough edged, gloss-fronted version coming too for my brothers in the dry dock. As promising a start as one could possibly hope for in truth, so if you don’t check one out you have the madness.


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