Album Review: Izthmi — “The Arrows of Our Ways”

Izthmi - The Arrows of our Ways

In his 1946 book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl explores how one could possibly stay sane and focus on the positive while a prisoner in Nazi Germany.  Ultimately, he comes to the conclusion that “love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire.”  On their full-length debut The Arrows of Our Ways, Seattle, WA’s Izthmi sample a reading of Frankl’s work and continue the search for meaning through embracing love against all odds, while blending searing black metal and crushing doom with a healthy dose of melody.

The Arrows of Our Ways is a concept album with a story centering on the modern ecological crisis and man’s search for meaning and purpose in a time of oppression and pessimism.  Love plays a strong centerpiece to lyrical and musical themes of the album, and it’s obvious that this album was a labor of love for the band.  There are a lot of influences being blended together here, from bright and ethereal blackgaze to doom to ambient noise and folk, prog, and melodeath.  I’m sure there’s a couple more elements that I’m missing but the point is that this is a band that isn’t afraid to put themselves out there and do what it takes to serve the song and the concept.  It’s very ambitious of an undertaking, especially for a debut, but in a market that is heavy with sound-alikes, it takes that kind of courage and ambition to make a name for yourself. And that is clearly what Izthmi are trying to do.  Almost as in episodes of a show, each group of tracks tell a part of the story and are broken up by interludes featuring ambient noise and samples.  The concept of the album isn’t exactly shoved in your face when you listen, but it’s impossible to completely ignore, and you definitely feel every bit of anguish and hope.

Admittedly, having that many influences in one place can make this an album that is a little hard to follow.  The aggressively hypnotic flow of the ripping black metal and angular melodies on songs like “Useless is the Song of Man, From Throats Calloused by Name” and lead single “A Shout That Bursts Through the Silence of Unmeaning” seem a little broken up when all of a sudden the guitars drop out and it’s just clean strumming or ambience.  It’s not entirely unpleasant, but the songs on here change direction a lot, sometimes right when I was hoping they would carry the part just a little longer.  Still, the extremely strong sense of melody running through the album gives them enough cohesion to land and be a really enjoyable listen.  I’m a sucker for a good melody, and this is an album that delivers that in spades.  Besides knowing their way around a good melody, guitarists Autumn Day and Brett Tomsett absolutely shred here too, and the fact that there are a couple honest-to-god guitar solos here is a pleasant surprise that made me grin like a dork.  Everything plays together nicely with vocalist Jakob Keizer, whose range goes from deep death growls to throat searing shrieks, and who provides a lot of added depth to the sound with synths and effect modulations.

Izthmi – photo via John Malley

It may be a coincidence that Izthmi are releasing an album whose central message is that of embracing love on Valentine’s Day, but even if it is, it’s fortuitous nonetheless.  It’s really scary to be alive in the world today, where there is so much negativity and fear and bad news.  Sometimes it helps to be reminded of what’s really important to hold on to and what helps you picture a better future, especially if you have someone who you are head over heels crazy for (hey).  Even if you think the holiday is nothing more than bullshit consumerism, maybe Izthmi can remind you that taking time to celebrate the love you have is an important way to find strength in uncertain times.

– Ian

The Arrows of Our Ways is available now on Within the Mind Records.  For more information on Izthmi, visit their Facebook page.

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