By Matt Hinch
Ash Borer have been making quite the name for themselves in the underground circles in a relatively short period of time. Their split with Fell Voices, and a self-titled debut in 2011 introduced the band to much acclaim. 2012 saw them join the Profound Lore roster and release the absolutely spectacular Cold of Ages. Ash Borer has wasted no time as we now have their Bloodlands 12” being released jointly by Gilead Media and Psychic Violence.
Ash Borer make their stock and trade in texture and atmospherics and Bloodlands is no different. “Oblivion’s Spring,” the first of the two tracks, starts with a delicate melody and ominous bass. Gradually textures are added with an interweaving melody and synths hiding beneath the surface. All this is just a lead in to Ash Borer’s annihilative black metal cacophony. The melodies remain as the band flattens the listener beneath a wall of sound punctuated by furious percussion. Its frantic pace mimics the racing heart of a cornered animal. Attentive listening reveals layer upon layer buried deep. Melodies cascade across each other, haunting vocals rise from the ether only to sink below the surface again to boil over with ghostly menace, stiffening the hairs on your neck. It’s almost as if the vocals are a form of expression that puts more emphasis on how it feels rather than the actual words. This enhances the mysterious aura of the album as each moment spills over into the next; building upon the last relentlessly like waves crashing upon a frozen shore.
That icy feel continues on “Dirge/Purgation.” The ominousness of this is even more present, as if it exists in a cursed cathedral. Albeit, a cathedral at the base of a glacier. The glacier housing the frozen body of a great beast, immobile yet still aware. The beast never loses its pride yet has come to terms with its fate. It’s all very noble sounding and brings with it a sense of purpose and movement. Yet it’s not so much that Ash Borer’s music races or crawls through time and space so much as time and space race or crawl around Ash Borer. It feels very centered and firm yet one can envision images passing by whether fast or slow.
Listeners will find themselves enraptured by the textures and emotional weight, held in place by the sheer gravitas of the music; delighted by the beautiful contradiction of light and darkness. Some listeners may find the way themes, movements and passages repeat and circle back over such long track times (over 15 and 19 minutes respectively) to be trying but this writer finds the journey deeply satisfying and welcomes the familiarity, finding solace in its embrace. Bloodlands, as with all of Ash Borer’s releases is an immersive experience, carrying the listener within its many folds. The music speaks for itself and if you haven’t already, it’s time to listen.
(Gilead Media / Psychic Violence)