Looking at the weather patterns here in northeastern Florida, between bundling up early in the week and wearing shorts and a tank-top by Friday, I forget that we’re still in the midst of what we at Angry Metal Guy & Affiliates like to refer to as Black Metal Season. It’s that time of year where our promo bin is roughly 64% black metal, and out of that bunch, we’re lucky to grab something worthwhile. For today’s examination, we have The Arrow of Our Ways, the debut full-length from Seattle upstarts Izthmi. With a promo blurb that touts a sound that blends black metal with post-rock, noise, and ambient dabblings, you’re probably thinking to yourself one of two things: “Gee, this could actually be pretty cool,” or “Gee, another Deafheaven clone.”
Let’s address the latter first. Sure, there’s a bit here and there that could remind you of Deafheaven if you were to squint really, really hard, especially in some of the interludes or the icy vocals of keyboardist Jakob Keizer. It doesn’t help that there are long-winded song titles like “Useless is the Song of Man, From Throats Calloused by Name” and “A Shout That Bursts Through the Silence of Unmeaning,” or the unexplained parentheses in “(The Angels are Lost).” Thing is, the first two songs mentioned absolutely rip, and if anything, Izthmi have studied quite hard at the Pacific Northwestern University of Opeth, namely their first two albums. Guitarists Autumn Day and Brett Tomsett rip through tremolo melodies, sweeping acoustic pieces, and riff after infectious riff with the ease and grace of a duo with decades under their belts while Nolan Head knows when to give a powerful, steady tempo, and when to go into a cymbal-infested blast-fest that will no doubt get you doing windmills.
In fact, anybody pining for the olden days of Orchid or Morningrise will find a lot to enjoy on The Arrows of Our Ways. That said, there are also some nods to the glory days of early In Flames, with Tomsett and Day recalling “Moonshield” during the tremolo-picked middle of “Useless…” before Gabe Kangas lays a thick, understated bass line. During the song’s eight minutes, Izthmi packs in many twists and turns, many changes of mood and emotion, and many incredible riffs and melodies that would blow away many of their contemporaries. Add the sudden airy closing guitar melody that plays off the song in an atmospheric, somber fashion, and you’ve got a strong case for Izthmi being a standout band in the Pacific Northwestern metal scene.
That said, there are a few critical issues on The Arrows of Our Ways. There are three interludes on an eight-song album, and two of those interludes, the opener “Chasm” and “-,”1 don’t benefit the album all that much, especially the latter which consists of two notes over and over. At least the aforementioned “(The Angels are Lost)” sets up the closing title track a bit with its ominous message of love being lost among mankind on a philosophical level. Also, just like Polemicist a few months back, the second half of the album is infinitely stronger than the first, as out of those four songs, two of them are interludes, and only “…This Listless World” showcases Izthmi‘s formidable talents.
But The Arrows of Our Ways left me impressed at how gifted Izthmi are at this early stage in the band’s life. It’s not going to be long before we see the five-piece taking over the metal populace by storm, and with just a little bit of tightening and crafting, that could very well happen. If you’re an old-school purist, by all means pass this one by. Everyone else, however, give The Arrows of Our Ways a shot, and above all definitely keep an eye out for them in the future.