What? You thought Victorious was gonna be the only metal band we reviewed here with bright colors and dinosaurs in their album art? Fools! The lot of ye! Tarchon Fist, an Italian heavy metal quintet formed in 2005, demands representation in the land of outlandish tapestries bursting with muscular sword-dudes and rampant nonsense. I summoned Apocalypse from the post-apocalyptic wasteland that is August’s promotional dump site because I believed the metal deities wouldn’t permit such artwork were it not for the righteous wares forged therein. Alas, I challenged the gods and lost.
Normally I can get down pretty well with heavy metal. Judas Priest? Iron Maiden? I’m in. I’ll even tolerate a little Manowar from time to time and I have an inexplicable soft spot for the glam metal stylings of Twisted Sister (albeit most of my experience with them relates to their bigger anthems, but whatevs). Tarchon Fist seem to share these preferences, as they have applied a little bit of all of them into their latest record. They even throw in a bit of Brainstorming grandiosity for good measure, though not enough for me to tag it as “power metal”. In a nutshell, the band’s fourth full-length Apocalypse is blunt and brash, simple and catchy as all get out.
On paper, everything seems to be in order. Apocalypse features a metric ass-ton of hooks. They aren’t going to knock your socks off, mind you, but they are nevertheless deceivingly effective—especially the chorus to “Last Human Strenth” and “No Mercy for the Enemy,” plus the entirety of album highlight “Skyrider.” How do I know this? Well, when you subconsciously fight close to 80db of straight-up noise1 just to hear yourself singing these songs to yourself for eight hours straight, it’s hard to argue against their efficacy as earworms. In addition, the band has a lovable spirit that oozes forth from Apocalypse. No song is better evidence to that end than “Proud to be Dinosaurs,” which is literally about being proud to be dinosaurs who fight zombies, I think. With some of the best riffs on the album but also the worst possible set of lyrics to go along with them, it’s difficult to imagine the song’s creation at the hands of a band who didn’t adore everything about it. Tarchon Fist loves this shit, and they wanna share it with the world. Those who know me will understand that I will always support such shenanigannery.
That being said, Apocalypse is riddled with songwriting cracks and craters rendering the experience as a whole befuddling. I’m not going to harp on too much about the lyrics, terrible as they are across the board, because something tells me these Italians are simply trying to figure out how the clusterfucked English language works. Aren’t we all? The bigger problem is the fact that outside of “Proud to be Dinosaurs” there isn’t anything on this record that everyone hasn’t heard a billion times before. I don’t mean this in a “oh, look, another heavy metal album” way. I mean it in a “Judas Priest literally wrote this in 1982″ kind of way. All of the fun-loving spirit the band exude on Apocalypse is undermined by the fact that acts they draw inspiration from wrote songs better than these by orders of magnitude (for example, closer “My Destiny (Epilogue)” sounds exactly like something Brainstorm might have penned on their darkest day).
In other words, Tarchon Fist have written an album that feels like the ABC’s of heavy metal played so energetically it makes me want to walk away very slowly so as to remain unseen. It’s fun in the moment, and it has a youthful exuberance with which I strongly identify. Unfortunately, that does not a good album make. In the end, Tarchon Fist needs to invest more time generating something fresh to bring to the lavishly appointed table that constitutes the heavy metal genre. So, unless you are a massive heavy metal nut and your standards are…flexible, this is my advice: save yourself that penny for the ferryman. Don’t waste it on Tarchon Fist.