Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Review: Arkhamin Kirjasto : Torches Ablaze - NWOFHM # 3 : Show me the way to R'lyeh ! 90%

"Venom on acid, bad trippin' in space and killing witches." - This would be the poster if this album was a B- movie.

This is the third part of my New Wave of Finnish Heavy Metal special, in reality a genre led by Jussi Lehtisalo, a very charismatic musician usually wearing spandex and spikes on stage and it's damn impressing. Torches Ablaze is the latest album of his prolific label, Ektro Records and shows no  musical compromises. For this project,  Jussi is teaming up with Samae Koskinen, a live member of Xysma and a well known musician of the scene. Compared to Krypt Axeripper or any of the numerous and all excellent projects of Lehtisalo, Arkhamin Kirjasto is really winning the crown if we're searching for his weirdest stuff. It's basically a mix of harsh vocals reminding me of the Old School death metal scene like Autopsy or even some Asphyx mixed with a traditonal metal approach à la Judas Priest. All this without forgetting the huge dose of experimental influences.

Koskinen's voice is really cool and the sound of it mixed with the very diverse music is very unorthodox. It's almost surreal and out of this world. He's also playing the drums and he's sharing the bass and guitar duties with Lehtisalo. Will I can appreciate their sound, his vocals aren't especially great, they're quite on the lower register of harsh vocals and wouldn't really compete with someone like van Drunen. But for what they are and for the music, they fit very fucking well. We also have some spacey vocals like in "Sea of Madness", there's even some Manilla Road similarities, from their more psychedelic stuff obviously. There's not a lot of variation or very particularly memorable vocal lines on Torches Ablaze, I like the catchy chorus of Bitch from Hell though, a cool brainless and fun song, but the force of Arkhamin Kirjasto is their absolutely stellar songwriting, like all of Lehtisalo's projects apparently. Hey, I'm a fanboy and I'm proud of it! It really sounds like Venom and Priest reading Lovecraft and smoking opium and that's very fucking cool.

You can feel the mix of influences in their music and even though I was expecting something like this based on their first self titled release, I wasn't disappointed. It's very organic and despite the rather strange mix of genres, everything has a clear direction and it's coherent. As an introduction to the album we have "The Cult of No Return', there's some kind of keys or organs in the beginning, you're perhaps awaiting some kind of post metal à la Isis but instead there's a riff stolen from Downing and Tipton's secret vault of awesome riffs mixed with a Reifert influenced vocal approach. It's cavernous and mysterious, you can clearly see the shades of Cthulhu dancing on the walls, awaiting the opportunity to devour your soul. It's weirder than Atheist without even trying to be. It feels a natural blend of genres, not a forced one, it's not "hey let's put some jazz interludes just because we can" metal, it's all in the feelings, all in the emotions and at the end, it's truly rewarding. The production compared to their self titled release (completely in Finnish compared to this English release) is really good, it's not perfectly clean but less raw than their previous EP. The guitars are quite fuzzy, they have a lot of reverb and this very cool old school feel.  There's some cool leads reminding me of Krypt Axeripper (my first review of this NWOFHM special). The basslines are tasty and it's present enough to make us forget that it's a duo, they remind me of the more punkish side of metal, even hardcore at times. check out the song Speed, Yog Sogoth, heavy bassline right there! Sometimes the traditional metal influence is clearer, sometimes it sounds more like Autopsy trying its hand at glam metal. Anyway, we have a good variety of tempos and atmospheres, but it remains quite fast paced and it's very groovy. From Angel Witch to Venom, the influence of NWOBHM is unambiguous and much appreciated.

If you're a fan of traditional heavy metal but you feel a bit bored by the lack of experimentation of this realm, check out Arkhamin Kirjasto's new album, it's great stuff. Mindblowing and strange riffs mixed with sepulchral vocals creating a weird lovecraftian mass, but you absolutely want to be there. (by the way, yes, there's booze)

Listen to the whole album

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