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Under the Radar - 90%

FullMetalAttorney, September 17th, 2013

So, apparently “New Wave of Finnish Heavy Metal” (NWOFHM) is a thing, at least according to about a half-dozen Finnish bands. I’m not so sure that’s enough to qualify as a “wave” at all. Whether there’s anything to it, I don’t know, but if Arkhamin Kirjasto is any indication, a better term for what’s going on might be “Children of Children of Bodom” (COCOB).

Don’t for one second take that to mean they’re ripping off COB, because they’re not. Like the much more famous band, they take an extreme metal sensibility to an ordinarily much more melodic and accessible style of music. Where COB does a kind of death-meets-power-metal thing, AK is taking death to classic heavy metal. And it is so very, very good.

Most of their songs are basically gruff vocals over NWOBHM songs. That could come off as a poor substitute for having a real singer if the music wasn’t so awesome. The riffs are catchy, and the vocal hooks beg you to sing (growl) along. The solos are great examples of writing with just the right amount of flash so it adds to the music instead of sounding like wankery. They play with high energy, too. In a word, it’s infectious.

But that’s not all they do. They veer somewhat into Swe-death on “Knights of Torment,” or take Swe-death and avant-garde black metal (of all things) on “Thousand Snakes.” “Speed, Yog Sogoth” is just strange, and “When the Light Is Dead and Gone” has Randy Rhoads written all over it.

Torches Ablaze is a fantastic album. It’s catchy, it’s rooted in metal tradition, and yet it’s also somewhat experimental. It’s only too bad that, being relative unknowns on a tiny label (Ektro Records), it will fly under the radar. My prediction: This will be the most criminally forgotten record of 2012.

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