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Ash Borer > The Irrepassable Gate > Reviews
Ash Borer - The Irrepassable Gate

Ash Borer - The Irrepassable Gate - 89%

kelectric, March 17th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Profound Lore Records

Do you ever get one of those records at the most perfect time in your life? Like when you are feeling down, or haven’t really been into any new music for a while, or just yearning for something that can really scratch that itch you have for some really good music? Well this album has done it for me.

Ash Borer has been one of my favorites since I got to see them (for a short bit before I had to leave) at Stella Natura in Lake Tahoe California. Listening to their haunting guitar sounds that shrouded the brisk forest with a dark cacophony of metal really stuck as a good memory for me. It was truly amazing and it’s a sound and scene I will never forget. Another thing that reminds me of Ash Borer is when I visited a local record store, End of an Ear, I noticed they always had a ton of records in Ash Borer’s collection. One time I was flipping through all the records and a guy came in, grabbed ALL the Ash Borer records they had in stock and left in a hurry. Ash Borer to me, is definitely THAT band. They are timeless, unrelenting, whimsical, and they will forever remind me of the forest.

Another affinity for me is being from the West Coast, when you hear their sound, I think of the foggy, cold sea and the chilly redwoods around California. Wolves in the Throne room has that sense to them as well in their sound, but Ash Borer is more of a perfect soundtrack that evokes memories of these places. Their newest creation and third album The Irrepassable Gate definitely does much of the same.

The first song, ‘The Irrepassable Gate’ comes in to play with a huge punch. Setting up for the rest of the album, the unique guitar starts slowly, while the drums come in fast. A different dynamic that really appeals to me as a musician. I like the imbalance of the steady and slow guitar while the rest of the music gets faster and heavier. It provides a dark sound, almost like footsteps. Of course the rasp growling vocals come into play and complete the sound as a whole.

‘Lustration’ and ‘Rotten Firmament’ are some of my other favorite tracks on the album. ‘Lustration’ is a beautiful sound, atmospheric with echo and a deep humming that illuminates the beginning of the track – setting up the scene for a dark and distant place where the music takes you. ‘Rotten Firmament’ is one of the faster tracks, with pounding drums. I’ve always considered Ash Borer’s drummer to be superb and it really shows on this track. The songs are on the longer side on this album (like many atmospheric black metal songs). But the guitars keep up with different segments of the song. Higher pitched licks and many slower break downs with ghouling growls in the background.

All in all, this is a great album. I appreciate the tracks ‘Lustration I’ and the final track ‘Lustration II’, which gives the album the changes it needs. Thoughtful placement as well. Definitely one of my favorite albums of 2016. Maybe even a tie with Predatory Light’s release, whom they share members with and the sound has definitely similarities. I highly recommend checking this album out – especially if you are in a dark headspace or even hiking in a cold, dark forest and looking for a newer (maybe even better) Wolves in the Throne Room atmospheric type band.

A mixed bag of the very good and the very long - 70%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, December 22nd, 2016

If you're thinking "there's no such word as irrepassable", well you're wrong now because US West Coast black metallers Ash Borer have just brought it into being. Go on, is there another word in English that expresses the sense of wanting to pass over or through a threshold or portal, finding yourself stuck, yet being unable to go back, and being possibly condemned to remain in eternal limbo? This is the sense I have with the title of Ash Borer's most recent album after a long hiatus of three-and-a-half years after the band's last release. The cover art also conveys an impression of an occult temple entry into another dimension, one that will have a dramatic effect spanning the rest of your life if you dare try to go through, and if you don't, you will remain in a child-like state forever.

The title track is a mighty roaring guitar-dominant beast rampaging through its jungle domain, all thudding drums, whining guitar and subterranean growling vocals. The sound is very clear and the style of music is close to very melodic, clean-sounding BM with thrashy elements. Any pretensions to being ambient BM are being left behind and Ash Borer is becoming a full-fledged guitars-n-drums band. This in itself presents a challenge to Ash Borer to convey atmosphere, mood, intense emotion and their full, densely layered style without the help of keyboards. Stretched over 11 minutes, the title track appears a bit one-dimensional as the band concentrates on piling riff upon riff and plows its path speedily and relentlessly, forcing listeners to follow as best they can. The slower, bass-heavy (in its first half anyway)"Lacerated Spirit" is more successful at carving out a three-dimensional sound and distinct atmosphere with feedback drone and an experimental bent. Likewise "Lustration" is another step further into the twilight world promised by the album title with deep drone, repeating guitar strum shrouded with echo and moaning voices and effects suggesting the presence of ancient spirit beings.

The album does have its bombastic moments and at times these and the long passages of never-ending blast-beat drumming, guitar noodling and background demon wailing can start to sound like filler material. There may be some fine melodies and moments where the music is intense and unsurpassable but when songs are very long and get carried away by constant repetitive fidgeting, no matter how technically good that is, such jewels can be missed. Listeners who find the second half of the album something of a drag (I have to say I did) can spend some time with the songs to their halfway points and shoot through to the final track "Lustration II" which is a return to the slower, complex doomy BM style of earlier songs like "Lacerated Spirit"

As you can guess by now, this album was a very mixed bag of good, avant-rock music and longer scrabbling pieces of endurance-test proportions. The experimental ambient avant-rock style of tracks like "Lacerated Spirit" and the two "Lustration" pieces unfortunately doesn't extend all the way through and the distinct sounds these have compared to the more straight-ahead melodic BM of the rest of the album make "The Irrepassable Gate" a very uneven recording. Well, Ash Borer didn't exactly promise us a smooth ride through what may very well be a transition phase in their career. It seems that "The Irrepassable Gate" symbolises a formidable challenge for the band at this crucial moment in their history, whether to advance in a different musical direction or stay as they are, as it is as a listening experience for its listeners.