Ash Borer - Bloodlands
Gilead Media
Black Metal
2 songs (34:38)
Release year: 2013
Ash Borer, Gilead Media
Reviewed by Charles
Ash Borer is easily one of the best bands in American black metal today, and in my view one of the best in black metal worldwide. Over the last few years their profile has risen substantially, and while this kind of thing tends to produce a truckload of latecomers drooling that they don’t know what the fuss is all about, their releases so far are entirely worthy of all the interest they are getting. Their split with Fell Voices remains my favourite black metal release for… I can’t think how many years. Lots. And their debut full-length from 2011 is, quite simply, fucking ridiculously good. Yes, their music contains some of the hallmarks of post-Weakling USBM, but in mood and spirit also communes directly with the untrammelled savagery of Transylvanian Hunger. Their howling delivery is, at times, almost overwhelmingly intense. Still, sometimes things come up that take precedence even over metal, and being suddenly required to take a ‘life n00b’ under my sheltering wing in the latter part of 2012 meant that I failed to really engage with Cold of Ages. Just as I was planning on catching up, along comes the next one. The wheel of time turns, and my modest dreams are crushed 'neath its mighty spokes.

The way Gilead’s promo stuff frames Bloodlands (a vinyl-only EP which will be available to the hoi polloi in April) is as a continuation of the trajectory begun on Cold of Ages, towards a greater engagement with ambient and electronic ideas. I can see that, but only to an extent. Comparing Bloodlands to the debut album reveals evolution rather than revolution. In fact, let’s not say evolution either, because in some ways the band has sought out a more primitive state. While Ash Borer has always been instantly recognisable, their hurricane surges of energy are here melded to a slightly more tangled and involved approach to songwriting, including an increased interest in slower tempos. The result is two sides which, let’s not exaggerate, could easily sit alongside anything from their last few releases (excluding the demo), but which nonetheless feels perhaps a littler danker.

So, “A” side track, Oblivion’s Spring, follows the same formula that the band has been working with for a while. Granted, it is bookended by some super-creepy ambient guitar parts, accentuated by spooky use of sustained synth tones. However, the band were already doing this very effectively on the debut- now the only real alteration is that the relative weightings have shifted slightly. As might be expected, these ideas serve mainly as launching and landing pads for a typically Ash Borer expanse of blasting. The screeching vocals are half-faded into the background, and the guitars pick out elongated and spectral melodic lines a bit reminiscent of Negative Plane. About a third of the way in, we get a sudden and scary diversion into a crashing slow section; an imposing procession that invokes a gothic doom kind of feel. This indicates an intention to experiment a little more with tone, and as mentioned above I think it takes us further from the pulsating energy of previous releases and towards a more oppressive mood.

On the “B” side, these trends are expanded further, with a number of gloomy, almost funeral-doom influenced ideas seeping in. It opens with a drone of sort of hazy, formless guitar noise, before once again taking shape in a shuffling slow riff. These kind of ideas resurface later in the track as well, becoming still more dissonant and oppressive. I guess I have two, perhaps slightly contradictory reservations about Bloodlands. One the one hand, despite the slight shifts in delivery, Ash Borer’s has always relied on its intensity and consequently it’s hard to see how their third release can top what has gone before it using pretty similar methods. On the other, the relatively minor alterations that are present here kind of squeeze out the tense, calculated melodic sensibilities evident on tracks like In the midst of Life We are in Death from the debut full-length. So I guess I’m telling them simultaneously to change more and to change less. I suppose this means they should probably ignore my advice, and regardless of my own oafish pontificating on the matter it goes without saying that black metal listeners should hear this.

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 - Ash Borer reviewed by Charles and quoted 90 / 100
Ash Borer - Demo 2009 reviewed by Charles and quoted no quote
0 readers voted
You did not vote yet.
Vote now

There are 6 replies to this review. Last one on Thu Apr 04, 2013 4:34 pm
View and Post comments