Doing something like Meat Mead Metal, and handling some of my side writing work for newspapers and magazines, you can get bogged down in your thinking. Every new record you receive goes from being an enjoyable experience where you let loose and experience the power of music and turns into critical analysis at every turn. It’s just how we scribes think.
That’s why it’s nice and pretty necessary to designate bands whose music you look forward to hearing. It feels less like work and lets you be able to be a fan again for the sake of enjoying the majesty of heavy metal. It’s not that if a band you happen to enjoy puts out bad music you won’t know and identify it. But there are bands that I tend to loosen up around and absorb for the pure enjoyment of their music first and foremost, critical thinking coming later. I have a lot of legacy acts like that including Iron Maiden, Neurosis, and Primordial, but I also have found that same thing with Ash Borer, the California-based black metal band that’s been fairly prolific in their relatively short time as a band (having formed in 2008).
Each step in the Ash Borer experience has provided something new and eye opening, from their early demos and their 2011 self-titled debut full-length, to their excellent 2012 sophomore release “Cold of Ages” (our No. 14 album of 2012, released by Profound Lore) to their new 12-inch release “Bloodlands,” that we’re here to discuss today. Gilead Media is responsible for unleashing this beast into the world (though you’ll also be able to get it through Psychic Violence), and this two-track, 35-minute record satisfies every primal hope I have for new music from this band. After repeated listens to this monster, it’s becoming one of my favorite entries in their catalog. They’ve continued to examine atmosphere and ambiance even more so than in their early days, and slowly, surely, they are morphing into a unique, mind-blowing band like none other in the U.S. black metal scene. They’re also one of the most creative.
This mysterious five-headed monster surely is on the crest of a creative tidal wave, having followed “Cold of Ages” so quickly and with something so rewarding. You certainly can hear some of the sounds and ideas they established on their sophomore album, but clearly the thinking and philosophy have expanded, and now their ideas are even more cohesive and organic. Not that they didn’t sound that way in the first place, but it’s just that the machine has had time for more oiling, and the band is coming up with some magical compositions that should both stimulate and bury you.
“Oblivion’s Spring” begins with clean tones and some cosmic flourishes before it gets torn apart and blows the peace into bits. There are searing guitar lines that slice you up like a blade, and a doom-laced path that acts as the song’s spine. The tempo and approach switch back and forth from furious to dreamy, all the while making sure you remember harm is around every bend. The song goes out on a cloud of ambiance, which sets the stage nicely for what follows.
“Dirge/Purgation” simmers in that fog for several minutes, as the band sets a mood and allows the darkness in to fill up the room. Hazy terror toys with you and a sense of dread builds, and even though you’re sitting on the edge of your seat waiting for the violence, it still rips the breath from your lungs when it strikes. Shrieks are buried behind a million tons of noise and metallic damage, the song continues to storm comfortably, with the foreboding clouds hanging above and refusing to move, and its smeary, dreary blankets of sound work to suffocate you slowly. The ambiance is always ever present in this song, keeping a gloomy glaze over everything you hear on this track, and as the song begins winding down, feedback hiss and piercing noise make sure you’re pummeled to the very end.
The more music Ash Borer release, the better and more imposing they become. They’re clearly feeling their way through their run and always finding the right doors to enter and the darkest rooms to perform their dark arts. This 12-inch is an excellent step forward for a band that wasn’t in need of improvement by any means, and it’s a clear indication that the music ahead of them cannot be predicted. That makes Ash Borer an even more exciting band, one I’m sure is a major favorite to more people than just me.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ash-Borer/156748071045193?ref=ts&fref=ts
To buy the album (preorders up soon), go here: http://www.gileadmedia.net/store/
Or here (preorders up soon): http://psychicviolence.bigcartel.com/
For more on the label, go here: http://www.gileadmedia.net/