Thursday, January 30, 2020

Izthmi - The Arrows of Our Ways

I'll forever be a sucker for atmospheric black metal. The genre is certainly saturated, but the tried and true formula of juxtaposing the harshness of black metal with moments of serene ambiance usually allows for something engaging to emerge. The Arrows of Our Ways, the full-length debut from Seattle's Izthmi, not only engages in this way but also offers its own refreshing take that piecemeals elements from other genres into its stylistic palette. It's a very concise effort; one whose elements have enough room to seamlessly interlock with each other while never meandering. For each moment of calm, Izthmi will in turn pack a mean punch.

The album demonstrates its ambitiousness right from the start. "To Traipse Alone" ushers in a slew of different transitions that keep you on your toes. The moment-to-moment will range anywhere from blaring guitar distortion and shrieking wails of black metal to triumphant guitar reverb reminiscent of Agalloch's The Mantle. Virtuosic guitar solos, chugging guitar riffs, and acoustic passages also include themselves in the mix. The album's interlude tracks bring to mind campy horror movies, which further emphasize any feelings of unease. From all of this, it becomes apparent rather quickly that The Arrows of Our Ways is compelling not just because of how many different elements are at play but because these elements all take their respective turns and no one necessarily outshines the other. This also allows for melody to materialize from a variety of places. The best example of this comes with the album's closing title track. Leveraging guitar harmonics, guttural growls, piercing shrieks, finger-tapped guitar notes, and crashing drums, the track harnesses techniques that weren't as prominent throughout the rest of the album. It was such a pleasant surprise, that it makes you realize that closing an album by going to your bag of tricks is something bands don't do enough of.

If you had to quickly describe The Arrows of Our Ways, you would call it an atmospheric black metal album, but it encompasses so much more. By balancing the coldness of black metal with the fervor of death metal and the thunderous nature of doom, Izthmi opens up various types of melody to be immersed in. The full album experience here isn't about trying to follow any specific motifs, but rather by savoring the different emotions it evokes in you as a listener. The Arrows of Our Ways is menacing, but it's equally as triumphant and even uplifting. This is the first album of 2020 that I absolutely adore. Don't miss out on this one.

- Mick

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