Izthmi – The Arrows of Our Ways (Within the Mind Records)Sunday, 22nd March 2020
One of the hallmarks of the metal landscape across the 2010s was the regular and surprising combining of old forms into, if not entirely new, somewhat new ways. Behind all the genre revivals was the regular spark of creativity – old and old infused to make new – or something like it. Here at the outset of the 2020s that spirit remains alive in the work of Pacific Northwest outfit Izthmi and their debut The Arrows of Our Ways.
As with most bands of a black metal disposition hailing from their geographic area, there are elements to this album that won’t be surprising – lengthy, atmosphere-laden tracks that mold and shift gradually. What might be surprising to the unsuspecting listener (myself included) are the band’s forays into progressive territory, post-intro track “To Traipse Alone” echoing with the hallmarks of classic era Opeth – acoustics included. Similar progressively-minded guitar work anchors “Useless Is The Song of Man, From Throats Calloused by Name” (a mouthful, yes), a gradually shifting, weighty piece of work.
In considering the other songs or the album as a listening experience more broadly, it fits largely outside the usual context for the PNW. There’s very much a black metal skeleton and spirit here, every element of the album is coloured in that spirit. But as a listening experience, it is more dense not at all meditative. “This Listless World” is almost an exercise in panic. Three of the eight tracks function as reprieves – synth-driven affairs that link the longer tracks. Perhaps most surprisingly, there are no real instances of ‘post-‘ here and the sequencing is fantastic: closer “The Arrows of Our Ways” is the most involved and wrenching work here.
It may be that Eigenlicht was a torchbearer. Repurposing the old is nothing new, either within black metal or the PNW. The Arrows of Our Ways leans into it solidly.