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Restless spirits stalking the caldera - 60%

autothrall, March 31st, 2011

Ash Borer is another of those West Coast acts who have stirred some buzz in the underground through their use of raw, uncompromising aesthetics, not necessarily adopting the same 'Cascadian' vibe you'd hear emanating from the upper Northwest of the US, but certain to appeal to that same crowd who seek a heavy amount of atmosphere against the backdrop of traditional black metal in the vein of Darkthrone, Burzum and so forth. The band has only been around for a few years now, and the Ash Borer tape is their debut full length, consisting of but three tracks, two of which are exorbitant in their length. I'll give the band credit, they manage to pull off a 12 and 19 minute track without either becoming entirely monotonous or boring, but aside from the fibrous, ringing Sonic Youth-like component that they often layer into the primal drudging, I wasn't so impressed.

There are clearly positives here. I love the band's name, it's one of those memorable, primal affairs like a Bone Awl. I like the huge swaths of percussive emptiness, feedback resonating into inner spaces while traces of deep distortion trail the memory (i.e. the end of "In the Mist of Life, We Are In Death"). However, I don't really care for the actual black metal segments, which drive along with vapid familiarity and rarely if ever involve any sort of surprise or escalation outside of the few chord shifts and snarling, resounding vocals. The blasting here, while used to create a mesmeric effect only, becomes duly monotonous. A good example of this is in the massive finale "My Curse Was Raised in the Darkness Against a Doomsday Silence", where the ambient intro, interlude and outro provide not only a stark contrast to about 10 or more minutes of ferocious, uninspired blast work, but feel superior to everything except the nice guitar sequence at around 7:30 in the song. Interestingly enough, I found the shorter, middle track "Rest, You Are the Lightning" to be the most rambling, despite the half decent miasma of bridge drums and guitars.

Fans of bands like Krallice, Altar of Plagues and Castevet will undoubtedly chew this up, though Ash Borer offers a much more raw, unwholesome ravaging. The songs are structured, but I have the impression these blokes could turn on their amplifiers and 'wing it' for many hours of bleak, distorted scripture. There is little complexity involved, just a viral, looping repetition that takes its time to cycle through each chapter. The guitars are good and loud here, placed at the fore of the tinny percussive storm and spacious yowling, but I feel like the note selection could certainly be more interesting than it is, and in particular I'd like to hear them indulge more in the post-punk fabric that they hint at, rather than the blander black metal riffs that seem to only anchor the outfit's potential to drift into a more appropriate oblivion. But this is not bad for what it is.