I’ve spilled a great deal of digital ink on The Ash Eaters; I’m proud to call guitarist/vocalist/mastermind UA my friend, and it has been a unique experience watching/hearing his latest metallic foray develop from the, uh, ashes of his previous work in the great Brown Jenkins. But as great as that band was, The Ash Eaters take things to a whole other level, especially in terms of UA’s highly distinctive guitar-work, which I’ve often likened to an insect swarm, relentlessly stinging the listener from every direction. When one listens to The Ash Eaters, one must reserve themselves to the cold fact that there’s no escape, no respite from the overwhelming nature of the music, and nowhere is this more evident than on Nothing is Real, the latest in a steady stream of releases.
Nothing is Real is comprised of three tracks spanning a total of about fifteen minutes. The Ash Eaters have released several EPs since 2011, and this is the best way to experience their music, not because it gets boring, but quite to the contrary; there’s just so much going on musically within the confines of a single song that sensory overload is practically inevitable. Just when you think you have a handle on navigating the musical labyrinth, it transforms completely, revealing newer, darker paths you didn't even know existed.
I touched on UA’s guitar playing in the first paragraph, and his idiosyncratic assault on the six-string is the obvious highlight and focal point of Nothing is Real. The man’s ungodly riff-barrage seems to get more tangled and bizarre with every release, the musical equivalent of one of Lovecraft’s adjective-packed passages detailing some elder horror hailing from a realm beyond the limits of human understanding. Indeed, plan on setting aside whatever it is you’re doing if you decide to put this EP on, as his maniacally baroque approach to the instrument demands your full and undivided attention. But in spite of the chaotic complexity, these three songs will stick with you; I’ve found myself contemplating their elaborate riff-mazes even when I’m not listening to them.
The Ash Eaters project has shown marked progression with each release and Nothing is Real feels like the next logical step in UA’s spiral into total six-string madness. It’s cerebral, harrowing and engaging, another musical puzzle to solve for longtime followers of the man’s work and a mind-bending surprise for first-time listeners. If you’re looking for some metal that will get your synapses firing rather than fading into the background, look no further.
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