Ash Borer - Demo 2009
Suburban Mayhem
Black Metal
2 songs (24:48)
Release year: 2009
Ash Borer, Suburban Mayhem Records
Reviewed by Charles
Archive review
It’s not often that I review demos, especially going back beyond a year to review archive demos. But it’s not often I buy cassettes either. If you must know, I don’t even have a cassette player. But Ash Borer are worth supporting, and it gets me some cool underground points, right? Right?

This is a two-track demo from a band that seems to have built a demand far outstripping the original 70 copies through word of mouth and live performances. They’re from California, along with the savagely wonderful Fell Voices with whom they tour and have released an infuriatingly hard-to-find split record. Here you will find a well-worked mixing of regrets-laden slow doom and heavy streaks of meditative Cascadian influence, rather different from the feral noise and drone influences of their aforementioned colleagues but nonetheless presenting a distinctive angle on black metal.

There are two long tracks here, clocking in at 25 minutes in total. Drukne is the better of the two, for my money; a quarter-hour epic reminiscent of bands like Altar of Plagues (something I find myself saying increasingly often) but with a despondent character that is its own. It opens with a slow doom-metal plod that sounds utterly miserable and intensely atmospheric. Once the mood is set up though, the band are free to draw down an avalanche of rattling and whirring black metal that manages not to dispel but deepen the sense of gloom. As the song progresses we are diverted, as is to be expected, through cleaner, gentler sections that in turn form the build-ins to renewed crescendos. Untitled I follows a generally similar path.

Listening to these two songs, it occurs to me not for the first time that a lot of these new American bands seem to be seeking (I don’t think consciously so) to do for black metal what earlier Opeth albums did for death metal. In other words, take a harsh and inaccessible form of music, expand the song lengths and stuff them full of mood changes and trail-offs into sweet and clean melodies, in order to produce something absorbing and even palatable in a way that is far removed from the original intent of the genre’s pioneers. As I’ve said before in reviews of albums of this kind, there will be those that will vomit out their intestines upon reading these last couple of sentences. And I don’t think the resolutely underground bands I’m describing will take kindly to the comparison either. In fact I’ve probably pissed just about everybody off but suffice to say I think, for now, this is providing a seam of creative and sometimes exceptional music to mine. (At the risk of sounding like a stuck collector's edition gatefold vinyl, the time to namedrop Skagos's Ást has inevitably arrived again.)

It would be nice to say that this is achieved without jeopardising any of the source material’s raw, misanthropic intensity but that isn’t true, in this case at least. Black metal on this demo is presented as something gloomily, tranquilly evocative rather than an outlet of nihilism and hatred. What it does match- surpass, even- other bands for is encapsulated in that infuriatingly vague but nonetheless appropriate term, atmosphere. Ash Borer's music sounds in some way alien, like the band exist on a slightly different plane of existence to the rest of us. As the best black metal should- this is the only genre of music where that distance between listener and performer is so strived-for. There is also a sense of intangible unhappiness to it that should please devotees of more canonical “depressive/suicidal” black bands. In short, this is well worthy of investigation for those interested in the current USBM scene.

Killing Songs :
Charles quoted no quote
Other albums by Ash Borer that we have reviewed:
Ash Borer - Cold Of Ages reviewed by Neill and quoted 90 / 100
Ash Borer - Bloodlands reviewed by Charles and quoted no quote
Ash Borer - Ash Borer reviewed by Charles and quoted 90 / 100
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