Tarchon Fist – The Flame Still Burns Review

It feels like ages since I last reviewed Tarchon Fist. Nearly four years ago, Apocalypse provided a fun but deeply flawed heavy metal experience, despite the wonder that is “Proud to be Dinosaurs.” Now it’s 2023 and these Italian steel addicts forge ahead with The Flame Still Burns, their fifth full-length, filled with new stories of war, wengeance, wictory, and, of course, 9/11—more on that later. With great excitement, and perhaps a small scoop of trepidation, I enter the Tarchon arena.

The Flame Still Burns consists of the same tempered alloy that comprised Apocalypse, a combination of Manowar, Iron Maiden, and the stadium anthems of Twisted Sister. This time, however, there are even MOAR hooks than before. Supporting those extra hooks, a greater portion of Irish folk-inspired melodies offers a new element previously absent. At a nice and tight forty-five minutes, The Flame Still Burns marches on with predominantly mid-paced stomps. As with previous efforts, every song here is brimming with enthusiasm and verve, which goes a long way driving their most memorable moments into the mind. Without that energy, this record would be in big trouble, as the lyrics are as painfully awkward to hear as ever before. Nonetheless, an unlikely charm sparkles to such an extent that Tarchon Fist’s clumsy verse comes across as somewhat endearing more often than not.

Despite the fact that Tarchon Fist haven’t accomplished anything on The Flame Still Burns that their influences haven’t already perfected, this record is bizarrely memorable and even a joy to hear on occasion. Big moments in “The Flame Still Burns,” “Always Alone,” and “The Legend of Rainbow Warriors” live in my head rent-free and I’m not particularly upset about that. I even like the vocal delivery in these songs, which is rough-hewn and nasal without being whiny or weak, and are very reminiscent of Dee Snider across the board. “Escape” and “The Man” are playlist-worthy highway cruising tracks, replete with silly Super Mario samples and big bar-brawling grooves, respectively, that make me smile every time I hear them. As an album, I appreciate the stylistic variety that was lacking on Apocalypse. Folk melodies on “Wolfpack” and “Ireland’s Rebels” change the base flavor of the whole affair, big stadium stompers like “The Man” give rise to plenty of opportunities for fist-pumping, and faster cuts like “Lens of Life” and “Soldiers in White” provide much-appreciated injections of adrenaline. Yet, everything maintains a stable sonic backbone that coheres these songs as unmistakably constituent to this album.

Unfortunately, The Flame Still Burns is consistently confusing and awkward to experience, in part thanks to some very odd songwriting choices. The worst offender is ballad “So, Thank You All,” which is a love letter to all of the fans that support this band and go to their shows. It’s a delightful, wholesome message, but the execution is stilted and haphazard. “911” doesn’t fare much better, primarily because it fumbles its goal to honor the emergency response teams that were lost to 9/11. I appreciate the intent to tell the story from the perspective of the heroes we lost that day, but again the execution misses the mark both lyrically and tonally. There’s also a timing issue, as it’s almost uncomfortable to hear this kind of thing from an Italian band in 2023. Valiant attempts to tackle sensitive topics aside, the album suffers from consistency issues when it comes to subject matter. Some songs are about war and conflict (“Ireland’s Rebels”), one I suspect might be about COVID (“Soldiers in White”), one is literally about wrestling (“The Man”), and the list goes on. The result is an uncoordinated roller coaster of messages that don’t coalesce into a coherent takeaway for the listener. Additionally—and as cited in my review of the last record—The Flame Still Burns worships the best works of legendary bands in their heyday. While the hooks this time are sharper and far more memorable than before, they still can’t compete with those iconic selections from twenty, thirty, even forty years back.

Tarchon Fist remain resolute in their mission to provide enthusiastic, passionate heavy metal of a bygone era, and the results are a bit of a mixed bag. There’s a lot here that works better than I expected, and an equal amount of material that left me cringing for my life. In both cases, The Flame Still Burns left a distinct enough impression that I still find myself singing some of these tracks—even the ones that I don’t like—every day. It just goes to show that charm can take you pretty far, but not quite far enough.

Rating: Mixed
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Underground Symphony
Websites: tarchonfistband.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/tarchon.fist01
Releases Worldwide: April 28th, 2023

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