Album of the day: Arkhamin Kirjasto – Torches Ablaze

Praise for Arkhamin Kirjasto‘s Torches Ablaze from San Francisco’s aQuarius Records: If you’re a fan of Finland’s Circle and/or their various offshoots (and if you’re an aQuarius customer, chances you are!), then you know all about the NWOFHM (New Wave Of Finnish Heavy Metal), the invented sub-genre self-classification that many of those bands embrace, as a somewhat tongue-in-cheek way of incorporating various heavy metal signifiers that they’re fans of, into their sound and image. Although even at their most “NWOFHM”, Circle, Pharaoh Overlord and the rest still usually come across more proggy and poppy and WTF? than actually metal in most cases.

Very few of their records could be mistaken for “real” metal albums, in their entirety – maybe Steel Mammoth‘s Nuclear Rebirth LP?


But this new NWOFHM unit, a project of Circle mainman Jussi Lehthisalo and his pal Samae Koskinen (a live member of Finnish grind freaks Xysma), is definitely (in our authoritative opinion!) a real metal band. A weird one perhaps, when you read the lyrics and look at the artwork, but metal first and foremost.

The iron gauntlet is thrown down right on the opening track, the pounding ‘Cult Of No Return’, which reminds us a bit of the the “black n’ roll” approach of Norwegian kings Satyricon, circa such albums as Volcano and Now, Diabolical. Or at least, this sounds more like Satyricon than Circle, for sure.

We’re also reminded a bit of the Finnish melodic death metal band Sentenced, back on their long-forgotten NWOBHM (note the B, not an F) influenced Amok opus from ’95. And this aggressive (yet also atmospheric) attack by the Akhamin Kirjasto duo continues, for ten varied tracks in total on Torches Ablaze.

There’s hella old school evil riffing a la Venom, some lashings of symphonic synths, and a dose of (melodic) death metal brutality in the form of the gruff (but intelligible) vokills from Samae, singing in English about such subjects as ‘Synthetic Death’, ‘Knights Of Torment’, and a ‘Bitch From Hell’. Though, he changes up to a more clean style on the likes of ‘Sea Of Madness’ and others, giving a whispery death-gasp on the speedy ‘Thousand Snakes’, a track that could possibly have fit in on Circle‘s Katapult album.

The Lovecraftian thrasher ‘Speed, Yog Sothoth’ is another blazing ripper, albeit laced with unexpected weird noisy breakdowns, Jussi‘s avant-garde / experimental leanings coming to the fore without violating the essential metalness of this one.

Overall, Torches Ablaze is certainly something that Circle fans should check out, but is maybe more for actual metalheads. Since we’re both, of course we’re digging the results here, the weird atmosphere that arises from Arkhamin Kirjasto‘s unusual blend of chugging metal shred, majestic spacey psychedelic synthwork, and the harsh but catchy vox doused in reverb. As NWOFHM goes, if their tongues are in cheek here, they’re well hidden. Hail!

At 40 years old, Aquarius is the oldest independent record store in San Francisco. We try to only carry music we love, and we’re always searching for more new, cool, weird and wonderful music. All of which we then share with you, our loyal customers.

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This entry was posted on Saturday, January 19th, 2013 at 2:53 pm and is filed under 2013, Album of the Day, Roadburn Recommended . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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