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Dust to Dust - 78%

Tanuki, August 4th, 2017

The word entropy, as any self-respecting metalhead should know, refers to a gradual decline into decay. And the 1990's had the market cornered on that. Thrash's gonads took a particularly entropic pummeling that's had me crossing my legs with pain empathy ever since. Traditional thrash had no choice but to cocoon for much of the decade, unintentionally allowing progressive thrash to metamorphose and flourish. Entropy was among the many bands to roll up their sleeves, dog-ear The Dragons of Eden, and get to work writing their highbrow debut Ashen Existence.

A Canuck thrash band with a propensity for thesaurus-reliant track titles may bridge you to fellow thrash eggheads Obliveon, and you wouldn't be that far off. Ashen Existence features a vehement trapeze act between thrash and death metal, with vocalist Gerry Shreinert doing much of the swinging. Delivering hoarse lows, gnarled barks, and even piercing operatics, Shreinert's delivery is dramatic, if perhaps too uncurbed for some. I've heard a handful of comparisons to Dark Angel's Ron Rinehart, for reasons I hope extend past rhyming surnames. Throw Artillery's maniacal Flemming Rönsdorf in the mix and you're all set.

It's hard to believe the outrageous vocal prosody can get overshadowed by song structure, but then again, this is progressive thrash: the average track is as long as an entire speed metal album. But at least Ashen Existence's titanic canvas is painted with a vivid palette. The lofty 9-minute 'Exalted Sith' dabbles in everything from Paradox's classical tinged power thrash, to ominous lumbermill death riffs, and apparently some more typical thrash riffs left straggling from the late 80's just for the hell of it.

But as Entropy was furiously scrawling page after page of music, they failed to realize how long these songs were getting, and how their pen was intermittently running out of ink. Elements of death, thrash, and black metal all work well individually, but their combination is as graceful as a human centipede. The shifting of time signatures, tempos, and keys feels clunky and contrived, making me think certain tracks should've been (or originally were) divided between two or three separate songs. This is particularly true of the artificially elongated 'Traces of Time', a meandering, insipid toiling that brought back some memories of Syzygial Miscreancy that I thought I killed with alcohol a long time ago.

But I can't let that upset me too much. Nor can I be upset about the gristly, bass-less mix, as it was an independently released thrash album in 1992: conclusions don't get much more foregone than that. Ashen Existence is, for the most part, a wise voyage through technical thrash with quirky, progressive flavors and some of the finest death/thrash drumming this side of Protector's late, great Michael Hasse. But sadly, Entropy would eventually fall victim to entropy, releasing the minimalistic, groove-infected Transcendence three years later. How disappointing.

This Album Demands To Be Heard! - 85%

dmpjackson, February 11th, 2010

Coming out of absolutely nowhere in 1992 are the might Entropy with this excellent debut. I had heard about this awhile back, but had trouble finding a copy. When I finally obtained it, I was immediately hooked. With how fantastic it is, it seems absolutely criminal that very few have ever heard it!

This is a true thrash album through and through. It features crunchy guitar riffs played at extremely fast speeds, rough vocals, and monster fills and double-kick drums aplenty. While that may seem rather ordinary, it features just a few death metal influences that lends gives it a flavor all its own. The vocalist has an incredibly varied range. He can unleash semi-high wails, low rumbling growls, and even deep, throaty death metal vocals. It is not uncommon for the listener to experience these all within one song.

The drummer also has some serious chops. He never lets up on the intensity and always offers some double-bass mastery and impressive fills that really add to the overall heaviness of the album. Even during the softer ballad-y parts, he shows impressive command. Occasionally he will through in some ultra-heavy blast beats. I am not a big fan of blast beats, but this guy manages to integrate them into the thrashing quite well.

The guitar work is as equally as impressive. The guitars have a very satisfying crunch, and they never sound sloppy, even when blasting away at insane speeds. The lead tone is also very good, it is overdriven to ridiculous levels, but the solos themselves seem rather ordinary. This doesn't mean they are bad, just simply unimaginative.

The production is excellent. Every instrument is very clear in the mix, with the exception of the bass. Where the guitars and vocals sound very good, the drums are absolutely crushing! The snare has a good snap to it and the hi-hat is nice and splashy, but the real appeal is the double-bass drums and the toms. They have such a rich rumble to them that adds greatly to the overall feel.

Good production is important, but the quality of the songs is what really makes an album, and Ashen Existence delivers in spades. Every song is distinct and leaves a lasting impression. The songs are all rather long, but they never get boring. They go from riff to riff, never letting up on the intensity. Once you think you know the structure of the song, they go off in a whole new direction. This creates an exciting dynamic to the song craft. The lyrics are thought provoking, if you can understand them, and the varied singing styles prevent monotony. The band is also not afraid to mix in some acoustic or clean electric parts to create some nice ballad like textures to the songs. The song Psionic Dissection is a bit of a curiosity, as it is full-on death metal tune. Thrash purists may find this to be a major annoyance, but I believe it adds to the variety that is present on the album.

This is an excellent album. The guitars are fast and brutal, the vocals are insane, and the drumming is tight and thunderous. They remind me of Vio-lence just a bit, but they have such a unique style that is new and refreshing. If you happen to come across this album, grab it! You won't regret it.