Torchia - Arcane Magicae

Artist: Torchia

Album Title: Arcane Magicae

Label: Independent Release

Date of Release: 9 February 2024

I knew I recognised the name when I saw it. I reviewed Torchia’s previous album, ‘The Coven’ back in 2020 but, aside from a faint recognition of the band’s name, I could remember precious little else. It turns out that the Finn’s sophomore album was OK, but not particularly groundbreaking, resulting in a review to match. Still, I’m all about second chances and that means I decided to check out Torchia’s third full-length studio release, ‘Arcane Magicae’ when news of its existence filtered its way to me.

Since the release of ‘The Coven’, Torchia have enlisted the help of a new bassist in the form of Eetu Tingander but the remainder of the quintet remains untouched. That means vocalist Edward Torchia, guitarists Henri Heikkinen and Ville Riitamaa and drummer Ville Virtanen remain present and correct. I don’t know whether it was because I came in with lower-than-normal expectations, if it a direct result of their new four-string comrade, or because the longer serving members of the band were on the receiving end of a firm kick up the backside. Whatever the reason, ‘Arcane Magicae’ is a huge improvement over its predecessor, and an album upon which I can apply my stamp of approval.

Comprised of nine individual tracks and lasting around thirty-eight or so minutes, ‘Arcane Magicae’ is a lean, aggressive, and catchy affair from beginning to end. As with ‘The Coven’ before it, the music is up-tempo thrash-infected melodic death metal with hints of power metal and classic heavy metal woven in for good measure. All of the histrionics that were present before make an appearance once more, but everything is just that bit better. The songwriting is more immediate, the riffing is strong, the lead solos and breaks are more arresting, the rhythm section is tighter; put simply, everything is that little bit more impressive.

Right out of the gate, Torchia waste no time faffing around as ‘There’s A Witch Among Us’ explodes with a heavy, abrasive riff and an energetic swagger that’s hard to ignore. The drums are thunderous, and the gruff vocals carry an edge that I can barely remember hearing on ‘The Coven’. As the song moves on apace, it first breaks out into a really nice blast of catchy melodic death metal, before veering off in a slightly more proggy direction before ending in suitably aggressive fashion, with the title of the track growled and spat repeatedly until the close.

I had to have a quick search online the first time I heard the equally frenetic ‘My Dearest Fiend’, just in case it snuck in as a cover of a hitherto unknown Children Of Bodom track. Wailing lead embellishments, blazing solos, catchy as hell, with shouted vocals in the hooky chorus, and plenty of synths – it’s a dead ringer for mid-era Bodom and equally as enjoyable.

I really like the production on ‘Arcane Magicae’, too, as the drums have a strength and clarity to them that affords them maximum impact, whilst the rumbling bass sounds great and fully audible throughout. But it’s the guitar sound that please me the most, as they benefit from sharpness and muscularity, ensuring that whatever they are doing – and they do a lot on this record – they strike the right tone.

Torchia - Arcane Magicae

It’s normally the case that albums tend to front load their best material, leading to a lull in the back end. With Torchia, though, that’s not the reality. ‘Arcane Magicae’ begins powerfully making a suitably strong impact but, for me, the final few songs offer just as much enjoyment, if not more. It does mean, if I’m being truthful, the mid-section sees a very slight dip in quality but this can be somewhat overlooked thanks to the way that the album starts and ends.

‘Red Luna Ceremony’ is the first of a final trio of compositions to hit hard. Its strength lies in the infectious lead guitar line within a barnstorming chorus, that then sees a delicious dual guitar harmony being played out between Henri Heikkinen and Ville Riitamaa, not to mention some preposterous lead guitar solos which add to the overall track that almost crackles with a sense of fun and aggressive purpose.

Summoning the spirit of 90s melodeath, ‘Silver Horns’ comes alive immediately after, alternating between more of a mid-tempo stomp and something a little faster. However, it’s the chorus that is both unusual and irresistible. The lead line gets right under my skin, even though it’s a strange melody and shouldn’t intrigue me as much as it does. I also enjoy the brief mid-song pause for breath as everything quietens down momentarily to demonstrate a more subtle approach and another string to the Torchia bow in the process.

It’s then left for the title track to see ‘Arcane Magicae’ to a close. The pace at the outset is frantic before settling down a little. That said, the drumming from Ville Virtanen wouldn’t be out of place on a ferocious black metal record, whilst the growls of Edward Torchia feel even more deep, ominous and spiteful than ever before. Again, though, it’s the injection of melody and the penchant for a few more Bodon-esque histrionics along the way that causes this song to be the great finale that it turns out to be.

I feel like I’ve been on a run of some reasonably negative reviews of late, so it’s genuinely a delight to be able to return to my more natural, positive self. It’s even nicer when I can congratulate a band for really upping their game, helping to alter my perceptions of them in the process. You can hear the hard work and sheer effort that has gone into this album, so it is very pleasing to be able to recommend Torchia and ‘Arcane Magicae’ to anyone willing to read these words and to trust my opinion. Put simply, I wasn’t expecting this record to be this good.

The Score of Much Metal: 87%



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