Ash Borer - Cold Of Ages
Profound Lore Records
Black/Doom/Post Metal
4 songs (61:57)
Release year: 2012
Ash Borer, Profound Lore Records
Reviewed by Neill

When most people I know tend to talk about Black Metal, usually the names that come up are bands from Europe, and specifically, Scandinavia. However, the American Black Metal scene really boasts some amazing acts. From Cobalt, to Krallice, to Wolves in the Throne Room there is something about American Black Metal setting it apart from the rest of the genre. That brings us to California act Ash Borer releasing their first album for the mighty Profound Lore Records. I had not heard of this band until they signed, and I checked out their debut album/demo Ash Borer through youtube videos of the audio. I was instantly a fan, and I counted down the days until the new album Cold Of Ages would be in my stereo.

The first track, Descended Lamentations starts off with a slow build. We get a nice slow, even somewhat low in the mix synth intro before some guitar feedback kicks in. A few minutes into the track, we get hit by the onslaught of harsh shrieks, double bass drumming, tremolo picking and thick bass. Already the head banging has started. The track has that "black metal" feeling of cold, and desolation. The vocals add to this feeling so much, as they feel tortured and pained. The musicianship is very tight, and the riffs are very memorable and catchy. As catchy as a black metal album can be. However, this band is not all about the heaviness and black metal maelstrom. This track ( as well as others, which I will get into) transitions into a slower passage. Right around the 10 minute mark, we are left with just guitars, featuring some great atmosphere, and and a very post-metal feeling. The rest of the instruments kick back in about a minute later, not early as fast as before. Now we get more of a doom metal passage. In the first song alone, we have already heard 2-3 different styles the band can employ. A little past the 13 minute mark, we get back to the heavy black metal riffage and double bass. The transition from the heavy parts to the slow parts, and back again is done very well, for this track as well as the rest that follow. We get more great lead guitar work and musicianship to end the track. at 17 minutes, and one track in, you can already tell this album will be a journey.

Now we get to track 2, Phantoms, and things start of with a nice, mid range riff, and some good drumming. The howling vocals are heard in the background, adding more atmosphere to the track . We do get a taste of some lower growls in the first couple of minutes in this track, which are a nice change, and keeps things interesting. Around the 2:45 minute mark, a nice groovy section comes in, very simple drumming but very well done and gets the head moving. close to the 4 minute mark, we get into the bombastic black metal we had heard in the prior track. We do get to hear more of the deeper growls during this passage which I enjoy very much. Upon my first few listens of this album a little over a year ago, I felt the vocals were a little too low in the mix. However, as I listened to the album more, I began to really, really enjoy the mixing. To me, it's about the atmosphere. The vocals, as they are, provide the perfect atmosphere for the record. At about the 8 minute mark, the music dies down, and we are left with a very atmospheric, synth section. It reminds me of walking through the streets at night, in an unfamiliar place, heart pounding in your chest. This passage takes us to the end of the song, and while this is the shortest song on the album, I feel this section goes on a bit too long, and could have been shortened. However, even with that in mind, the atmosphere it creates is very eerie, and second to none on the record.

Convict All Flesh is the penultimate track on the album, as well as the longest. Clocking in at a little over 18 minutes, this track can seem like a task to get through. However, as the rest of the album thus far, the track remains very interesting despite the longer length. The intro sets us off well with a great doom metal intro, accompanied by the howled vocals in the background. In a nice touch, we get some female operatic vocals coming in around the 3 minute mark. Just when you think you may know everything the band has to offer, they show you something new. The vocals just add to the Doom Metal aspect the track has given us so far, and they are very tasteful as well. It reminds me at times of Wolves in the Throne Room. Once the black metal kicks in, we again get a bombastic attack. Even though it may sound repetitious, or too much of the same, each song really does have it's own identity, even while following a fairly similar formula. The riffage here is top notch, and the drumming is as intense as anything else on the record. Things do slow down around the 10:30 minute mark, and we get another eerie passage with synth and guitar. Very slow, very dark. The drums kick back in, and we slowly begin to build up to a faster pace. You can feel the build and it makes a fairly long passage seem much more interesting, and worth the wait. At slightly past the 14 minute mark, everything, save for the guitar stops for a few seconds and then takes us back into the heavy barrage. I felt this build up was a little bit of a let down, as the climax to the build could have been done a little better, but it is a small complaint. The riffing continues until we get near the end of the track, ending with some noise and feedback.

The final track Removed Forms has very slow intro, again with some female vocals coming into play. The intro sounds very Post Metal, and even sounds as if it would fit in with an earlier Cult of Luna record. Ash Borer continues to add more to each song by having a few whispers in the background during the intro as well, just more and more atmosphere coming through with each track. It takes us until the 4 minute mark for the black metal to kick in, and song to "officially" start. The underlying melody and lead in the track make it standout from the prior songs, and the groovier section around the 6 minute mark is just incredible. The slow passage around the 8 minute mark sends chills down my spine, and is dark, and as cold as can be. The band continues to add more to each track by not only bringing back the deeper growls, but even adding some clean vocals near the last couple of minutes of the song. They are nice to hear, but honestly don't feel needed to me. I feel the deeper and higher harsh vocals work fine for this track. The track slows down and at the end we are left with feedback before the album closes out to silence.

I initially purchased this album back in 2012 when it came out. I have had quite some time to sit with it and form an opinion. Amazingly, it still hits me just as strongly now as it did then. I may be a bit biased though, as I feel Profound Lore Records is the best label in metal, and about 98% of their releases top everything else. However, Ash Borer really do bring a lot to the table. The mixture of styles, from black metal to post metal and even doom is done so well, and the transitions from these styles and moods on the record are done so well. Each track flows, and makes sense. As I had mentioned before, I felt the vocals were too low at first, but it really adds atmosphere to the record, and sounds fantastic upon further listens. While some of the tracks do tend to feel a little long (after all we get over an hour of music in 4 tracks) I do feel the tracks remain interesting throughout. Perhaps a couple of minutes could be shaved off here and there, but I feel the atmosphere would be compromised if that were to be done. All in All, Cold Of Ages still ranks as one of the better releases from 2012, and certainly a top black metal album in the last few years. American black metal just seems to get stronger and stronger, and there's no better time to really delve into what the style has to offer. For those who have not heard this album yet, please check it out right here.

Killing Songs :
All 4
Neill quoted 90 / 100
Other albums by Ash Borer that we have reviewed:
Ash Borer - Bloodlands reviewed by Charles and quoted no quote
Ash Borer - Ash Borer reviewed by Charles and quoted 90 / 100
Ash Borer - Demo 2009 reviewed by Charles and quoted no quote
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