Thursday, July 11, 2013

Ash Borer - Bloodlands

Review by Red.

Cover Art by T. Ketola.

Someday soon, Ash Borer will release an album of material that I love unequivocally. Bloodlands isn’t that, but it’s damn close.

One can draw a throughline from their first full-length to now and notice a satisfying increase in quality. Personally, I wasn’t a fan of the self-titled album. In spite of the hype it received from multiple outlets, I didn’t find it to be compelling. Indeed, I was confused by the rapid switching from all-out black metal assaults to more placid instrumental lines redolent with “post-rock” influence. Cold of Ages upped the production quality and the compositions made more musical sense.

Photo by Carmelo Española.

Like their full-length releases, Bloodlands contains a small number of tracks that run to great length. The production is noticeably dirtier than Cold of Ages. “Oblivion’s Spring” opens with a clean guitar figure that is gradually joined by second guitar before exploding into noisy black metal. An interesting transition occurs around five-and-a-half minutes in. Where one might be expecting a switch back to the clean guitar that opens the track, instead the band slows down, but keeps the distortion on. This results in the most engrossing portion of the EP, as the guitars get a little doomy and the drums throw more fills into the mix.

The intro of “Dirge/Purgation” follows a similar path. It starts with clean guitar that morphs into droning noise before the distortion kicks in. The relative success of the next three to five minutes depends on one’s appreciation of the tremolo lines that the guitarists throw at the listener. While I don’t think they are as compelling as the band’s other ingredients, they are competently played and display an adequate grasp of the sub-genre’s dynamic.

Photo by Carmelo Española.

That’s not to say they haven’t created an emotionally stirring work here. “Oblivion’s Spring” moves me in a way that I’ve never felt while listening to this band. Similarly, “Dirge/Purgation” throws some tasty slower tempo passages into the mix that demand attention.

Lastly, there’s the cover art, a fascinating piece which appears to be done in either charcoal or pencil. Like the music within, it frustrates those searching for easy categorization. To this viewer, it appears to be a snake (or wingless dragon) in a swamp with storm clouds overhead.

Bloodlands is an excellent EP from a band still on the rise. Just when you think they have nothing left to say within an oversaturated sub-genre, they find a way to tweak their sound and continue to surprise the listener.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Tagged with 2013, Ash Borer, black metal, Carmelo Española, Red
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