To operate effectively on your brain stem, extreme metal doesn’t require catchy melodies or viral riffs. You don’t have to find yourself humming the songs in your head hours or days later in order to enjoy the listening experience. In fact, as we all know, music in which the instrumentalists deliver nothing but down-tuned brute-force percussion, especially when accompanied by ravenous howling or bear-like roaring, can strike all the right chords even when you can’t reconstruct the songs in your mind a day later.
Yet I think it’s undeniable that clever melodic hooks and instantly headbangable rhythms are a big part of what makes classic heavy metal “classic”. Those are key ingredients (though not necessarily essential ones) that give songs staying power. Match that up with extremity in the vocal department, and you’ve got something that has the potential for real appeal to listeners (like me) who enjoy a memorable, neck-snapping song but also have a thirst for musical bestiality with a seasoning of the occult. And if you discover a band who do that while also delivering surprising variety and lyrical themes involving Lovecraftian horror, then you’ve got yourself a real winner.
And that’s what I’ve found in Torches Ablaze by the Finnish duo known as Arkhamin Kirjasto. They’ve pulled off a neat trick on their virally infectious debut album: combining throwback heavy metal riffs, death metal vocals, atmospheric guitar touches, and Lovecraftian lyrics in a way that’s as interesting as it is irresistible.
In a nutshell, Arkhamin Kirjasto (“The Library of Arkham”, in Finnish) is the project of Jussi Lehtisalo, who manages the eclectic Ektro Records label and has been involved in numerous other bands (including Circle, Pharoah Overlord, and Split Cranium) and solo artist Samae Koskinen. Lehtisalo brought to the project his interest in extreme experimental music as well as hard rock, glam, and punk, while Koskinen was driven by interests ranging from Maiden-esque heavy metal to early death metal.