So my black metal journey brings me to this final review. Hopefully, some of you will have read my review of Bloodlands, earlier this year. This time it's the turn of Ash Borer's latest full-length Cold of Ages. Originally released in 2012 on CD via Profound Lore Records and on cassette via Psychic Violence, this four-track album has been given the vinyl treatment by Pesanta Urfolk. I thought this would be fitting release to end on, especially as Ash Borer harness so much of the raw energy and creativity that crosses the whole black metal scene. Their mysterious personas have kept them hidden from the world while their music has spoken more than they could ever say.
1. Descended Lamentations
3. Convict All Flesh
4. Removed Forms
Cold ages feature four tracks that span over an hour and anyone familiar with Ash Borer will know that they'll be nothing short of huge. Descended Lamentations begins with gentle organ, which segues into more menacing, plucked guitar. Ash Borer always let their songs progress and build at their own pace. They don’t elect to go straight for the jugular and it's that consideration that makes them so unique. Noise penetrates the build up before the band unleashes their energy four minutes in. As with Bloodlands, the vocals here are kept deep in the mix with the guitars and drums swirling around them, creating a huge chasm of sound. Musically there are more layers on show during Descended Lamentations. There's subtle melody, down-tuned guitar passages and off-kilter time signatures. The drums pound away furiously and cymbal crashes dominate the music at times. This is definitely a record best played loud, because otherwise you won't pick out all of the subtle nuances at work within the music.
The vocals during Phantoms, while sparse, sound ghostly. The song isn't as fast as the opener, but its more winding and lurching progression makes it more haunting. The melody from the subtle orchestral sounds in that background adds to that feeling too. The song changes completely as the pace picks up again and the full energy of Ash Borer is once again unleashed. To be honest, it does feel a little bit redundant writing about Ash Borer's sound, because most of the people who read this will already be familiar with it and will know how they feel about it, but as a band they are one that's held in very high regard and rightly so.
In spite of Ash Borer's blueprint sound, they manage to conjure different atmospheres with each song on Cold Of Ages. The lowly melody that heralds Convict All Flesh is capable of producing more evil than the songs that have come before, on it's own! The dual guitar harmonies during the opening add a metallic edge to the music and the drums are almost druidical. After the interstellar noise that concludes the instrumental intro section of Convict All Flesh, Ash Borer settle back into more black metal chaos. Convict All Flesh has one of the most gracious structures I've heard from Ash Borer. The calming mid section with it's gentle guitar and the guest vocals from Jessica Way of Worm Ouroboros, makes you think you're listening to another band and helps to break up the longest song on Cold of Ages.
It's left to Removed Forms to draw Cold Of Ages to an end. It starts with the minimal intro that features more guest vocals from Jessica Way. The female vocals really add another haunting element to Ash Borer's sound and show that despite the blackened dissonance on display throughout Cold Of Ages, Ash Borer's music can sound emotive and even devastatingly beautiful. Removed Forms seems to be split into parts, as the quiet intro section virtually goes silent before Ash Borer launch into one final maddening attack. This record really does play havoc with your senses. To think that in a genre that people says is stagnant and overrun, there are still bands that are pushing things forward and who are not scared to approach their music from a different. It's refreshing and what's more, it's vital. Nobody ever said extreme metal was meant to music-by-numbers and here, Ash Borer prove they are so much more. Let Cold Of Ages drag you into the void. You'll be glad you did!
You can hear Cold Of Ages in it's entirety via Profound Lore's bandcamp page here:-
Cold Of Ages is available in a multitude of formats. You can by it digitally from the page above for starters.
You can buy on CD from Profound Lore Records at http://www.profoundlorerecords.com/.
You can get the new LP version from Pesanta Urfolk at http://pesanta.bigcartel.com/.
Unfortunately, the tape run from Psychic Violence is sold out.
Ash Borer Blog - http://ash-borer.blogspot.co.uk/
Pesanta Urfolk Website - http://f-consortium.com/pesanta/home.htm
Profound Lore Records Website - http://www.profoundlorerecords.com/
Psychic Violence Blog - http://psychicviolencerecords.blogspot.co.uk/