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Less than what I might have asked for - 53%

autothrall, March 16th, 2011

Adorned with its silent provocation of a burnt out Church, the Aske EP served as little more than a stopgap to Burzum's sophomore Det Som Engang Var (to come later the same year). However, this being the infamous act that it was and remains, and having been published through the legendary DSP imprint (before the murder), it's proven to be quite the collectors' item. Most people will have experienced this material as a part of the Burzum/Aske release compiled through Misanthropy Records, which uses only one of the version of the redundant track ("A Lost Forgotten Sad Spirit"), but a more recent edition incorporates both the Aske and s/t editions of that track.

Naturally, since that track was not a favorite of mine on the debut, I'm not in love with it here either. Again, not for a lack of substance, but simply too much of that substance bleated into oblivion, and the fact that Samoth (Emperor) appears here on the bass adds nothing for me. It unfortunately occupies over half of the content on this EP, severely diminishing the value I was able to draw forth from it. So my attentions here have always been turned towards the other pieces: "Stemmen Fra Tårnet" and "Dominus Sathanas". The first is a straight shot of mid paced archaic Norse black metal, with a thicker guitar tone than was found on Burzum (Samoth also performs the bass on this), leaden and hostile riffs that perfectly support Vikerne's even more harrowing, bloodied vocal presence. If I had a dime for every underground black metal crooner who apes this very voice, I could purchase most of Jan Mayen and the Scandinavian Peninsula, but in retrospect I don't find this particular song to be as stunning as most of those from the debut, despite the few glints of atmosphere.

"Dominus Sathanas", though, is a curious departure which is probably best compared to the tiny track "The Crying Orc" from the first album. It's a guitar instrumental with screaming and bass lines, and the melodies are menacing and thick here, resonant against the void of percussion. If not for Varg's timely, carnal outburst, and the lack of drums, I'd very much compare this to something Candlemass or some other Gothic doom metal band might compose, and it has that same effect of gathering black clouds over the listener. Sad to say, it's the most intriguing piece on this album...

Gauging any real value here is perplexing. For its day, 'Ashes' was a nice limited run affair that fans could get their paws on, and original copies probably still fly off the auctions. But honestly there's just not enough to it that I'd ever get excited. "Stemmen Fra Tårnet (The Voice of the Tower)" is the first Burzum track delivered in the Norse tongue, and notable for that reason, but it's not nearly the most engrossing that he's written. "Dominus Sathanas" continues to exhibit Varg's incorporation of instrumental material to his releases (I won't count the screams), and it's not bad. "A Lost Forgotten Sad Spirit" is slightly more energetic in this environment than on the debut. All three work wonderfully as a bonus to the Burzum CD but independently there is not much to say for this. Collectors, get excited if you find an original kicking around. For anyone else, there is vastly superior Burzum music to invest in.

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com