California’s Ash Borer have steadily increased their profile within the realm of contemporary black metal via an unassuming outlook and a somewhat prolific output considering their short time together as a band. Forming in 2008 and releasing a widely acclaimed and well-received demo in 2010, Ash Borer followed that up with a release that helped to stamp their mark on the American black metal scene – a split with fellow statesmen Fell Voices. A full length appeared in 2011, the self titled Ash Borer and the announcement that Cold of Ages would be released in 2012 via Canadian label Profound Lore Records came as a welcome shock to many who have followed the career of this young quintet.
So, can Ash Borer live up to the hype that’s been placed upon their shoulders? The simple answer is yes….. but let us take a closer look at Cold of Ages and the four tracks that make up the one hour running time of this incredible second record from this band.
Hit the jump for a detailed track by track rundown.
Eerie cold synth (N. – Ash Borer are enigmatic enough to get away with single letter names) lines usher in the beginning of this first track, and a new dawn begins to break over the world of urban black metal. Ash Borer have had lot of expectation put upon them ever since their inception four years ago and whilst they have some terrific releases to their name, Cold of Ages and “Descended Lamentations” bring together the smaller mechanisations of the Ash Borer sound into one seventeen minute ode to decay. The initial steps of “Descended Lamentations” weave a saddened dance around light electronic sounds and an aura of gloom before a supreme drum blast kicks the song into furious action and K.’s screams penetrate the dynamic guitar riffs with howling intensity. A curiously dissonant melody falls into place and a dream-like edge envelops the pounding drum sound that takes on a martial tone at times. “Descended Lamentations” simultaneously carries rich textures and encompassing rage whilst distancing itself from the “Cascadian” scene that Ash Borer often find themselves mentioned to be a part of. The Cascadian sound usually features more in the way of beauty – in the quieter moments, in the shimmering guitar lines that other such bands use, in the fading atmospheres of dusk – yet Ash Borer hold no beauty in their world, their environment is one of betrayal and entropy. It’s heard in the outright wrath of K’s voice, the aggressively punched blasts of drum and the agony found in the guitar work. Synth-laden sections bring nothing but extreme solemnity and Ash Borer pulse with the kind of vehemence that has been hard to find of late – particularly in the American scene which has finally started to come into its own in the past few years. Ash Borer are an excellent addition to this range of bands and “Descended Lamentations” is an innovative beginning to the despair that is Cold of Ages.
“Phantoms” begins with a gentle melody which courses throughout the track, broken by howls and wails of devastation wrenched from the very bowels of the earth. Staggered strikes on the guitar build an uneasy momentum whilst M.’s drum blasts power the track towards the inevitable end. “Phantoms” hurtles with a breakneck speed and all elements come together to form a cacophonous wall of sound. It’s frantic in its intensity but it never feels as though Ash Borer have lost their way – through the cries of desperation a solid grounding can be felt, Ash Borer need to expel this emotion and do so with wild screams and furious pace. During the latter half of the track, the sound is stripped back to a basic wash of electronic soundscapes. Gentle pitches of echoing noise play out the final stages with an uncomfortable edge that both frightens and entices with its unsettling nature before segueing deftly into the monolithic “Convict All Flesh.”
Convict All Flesh
A doom-like energy settles over “Convict All Flesh” and K’s voice reels in death metal-esque vocal patterns. Deep growls permeate the rhythmic waves beneath and Ash Borer introduce the ghostly aura of Jessica Way (Worm Ouroboros) into the mix. Her voice haunts in slower passages, echoing the supernatural quality of the first track of Cold of Ages whilst the fury of Ash Borer crashes into tight crescendos and curls into the darkest recesses of the mind in the more bombastic movements of the song. Softer sections counter the extremity found within the record giving it a feeling of constant motion, moving forward towards a finality, an end to the surging anger that lies so prominently in this release.
A dreamy essence seeps into “Removed Forms” as Jessica Way lends her evocative vocals to the initial steps of the track. Enveloping the gentle strikes of guitar in a gloomy resonance, Way adds a deeply moving element to Ash Borer that brings a feeling of closure to the piece whilst draping the song in ethereal grace. The sound is fresh and somewhat unexpected considering the wildly aggressive nature of previous tracks and sheds new light on the direction Ash Borer are moving in. Of course, such calm cannot last and soon the disparate and tortured cries that are prevalent throughout this record appear, cloaked in abhorrence and terror, forging a path of destruction. Screams flail for a grasp on reality whilst Way’s graceful vocal addition grounds the song in actuality, the two opposing forces working against each other and finding their own space in the ruinous maelstrom of rage. Ash Borer make no apologies for their extensive attack on life and Cold of Ages continues to decimate until the closing seconds. Astounding.
Cold of Ages is released on August 14th and can be ordered via Profound Lore Records.