Arkhamin Kirjasto - Torches Ablaze
Ektro Records
Heavy Metal/Black Metal
10 songs (35:31)
Release year: 2012
Ektro Records
Reviewed by Charles
Strange. Arkhamin Kirjasto is a Finnish duo playing what Ektro describes as ‘pure glam with death metal vocals’. You are probably thinking- “that sounds stupid, why would anyone do that?” Why, indeed. Well, do it they have, and it is fair to say this is an acquired taste; while that tagline doesn’t quite do Torches Ablaze justice, it certainly captures the general tone. The album is built around a series of bouncing hard rock grooves delivered whimsically in a fuzzy Scandinavian death metal guitar tone, and embellished with Samae Koskinen’s big, booming harsh vocals somewhat like an angry bear.

First track The Cult of No Return is a good indication of what is to follow. A mid-tempo 80s heavy metal riff motors nicely, but forced into bizarre a marriage with some horribly guttural vocals. On several songs- such as Knights of Torment- appropriately retro lead lines are also worked in tastefully. The rhythm guitar tone is abrasive and sludgy; thus the overall impression is something like Nihilist covering Midnight. Put that way, I suppose it sounds quite fun, albeit not of the cerebral kind. Bitch From Hell (or Beach from Hell as it’s pronounced here), for example, is the goofiest kind of rock ‘n’ roll. It’s not all like that, though: Synthetic Death actually features riffing that, while equally catchy, is more barbed, allowing a stronger death metal influence to shine through.

The ideas here can be quirkily inventive. Speed, Yog Sogoth, for example, is genuinely striking. Jittery, stop-start punk riffing locks together with squawking lead lines and Koskinen’s malevolent whispering, in a combination that I don’t think I’ve ever really experienced before. Even better, it features a completely deranged solo; first it swoops like a theramin, then it goes into those strange crackling techniques that Derek Bailey used to use a lot (I must admit, when I began working on this review, I didn't see a Derek Bailey reference coming). Bizarre and surprising. Thousand Snakes, as well, derails itself gleefully with extravagant and incongruous sound effects.

What else? Oh, there are a couple of moments where things take a turn for the even stranger. The oddball pop of Sea of Madness makes me feel a bit queasy with its hushed vocals and swaying indie chord progression. It finishes with the down-tempo When the Light is Dead, which strays precariously towards soft rock; it’s twinkling melodies mingling with fat riffing that could have been plucked from Edge of Sanity’s Spectral Sorrows album. Very curious.

Killing Songs :
Speed, Yog Sogoth, Knights of Torment
Charles quoted 75 / 100
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