Band: Ashen Horde
Label: Transcending Obscurity Records
Genre: Black/Death Metal
Release Date: January 27, 2023
For Fans Of: Immortal, Inferi, Ihsahn
Ashen Horde have been around for a decade, but between the members they’ve been in a combined thirty-eight bands. Despite the influences pouring in from all sides, the band has maintained a sound that is uniquely theirs within the greater world of black and death metal. Their last release, 2019’s Fallen Cathedrals, was a fun celebration of what the harsher styles of metal can be, and Antimony is no different. Time to dive in.
Antimony is tagged as “progressive black metal,” which I guess works. The presence of Stevie Bosier on vocals immediately gives the music a death metal mask. These genre labels don’t seem to concern Ashen Horde at all, who are more interested in creating stop-and-start guitar music and wringing out their guitars for all they’re worth. Turns out they’re worth quite a lot.
The riffs on Antimony are top-notch. Solid, fun, flashy, and unique twists last from beginning to end of every song. Even when the band is chugging on a repeated note, the performance sounds artistically intentional rather than like they ran out of writing capacity. Every moment is interesting and cohesive. The band isn’t afraid to linger on one note for a moment too long and then let everything come crashing down underneath. The drums are varied and interesting, with the more typical patterns feeling earned. The more varied drum patterns provide wildly different auras whenever Ashen Horde decide it’s time to switch it up.
Bosier’s vocals are as excellent as they always are. His howls reach the upper end of what’s typical for death metal, and his pizzazz lends character to any of his projects. The bass, when it’s prominent, fills out the album and provides a deep, spacious feeling to Antimony. This group has clear chemistry. Their focused creativity and charm add much more listenability to this release than I expected, and the record’s fifty minute runtime absolutely flew by with no problems. The record even sounded too short on some listens.
However, Antimony has some problems as well. Bluntly put, the production sounds like shit. I don’t know what happened. On this record, Ashen Horde doesn’t sound like grimy underground black metal where lo-fi production is half the point, and they don’t sound like the crystal clear, overly studious bands that some people can’t stand. This is their first release on Transcending Obscurity Records. Usually this excellent label are solid with this sort of thing. The drums sound artificial and muddled, the guitars and bass sound modified, the bass can be too difficult to distinguish, and the entire album has a sheen to it like you’re listening to it from across a well-insulated fish bowl. Antimony doesn’t sound painful or difficult to listen to, it just makes me concerned that something’s wrong with my headphones or speakers.
The other big problem is the final track, “Knives”. This is a cover song that sounds solid out of context. The band clearly had a great time recording it. I just wish it was part of a separate EP with some other songs that the band would love to play. Antimony sounds cohesive until you get to the finale track, at which point everything goes out the window. I get that this is a bonus throw-in at the end of the record, but it’s so jarringly different and thematically incoherent that it sounds like going for a drive on a smooth, scenic highway, then sneezing and crashing into a tree while your eyes are averted. Good song, not the place for it.
Overall, Antimony combines genius songwriting and fantastic performances with choices around the edge that threaten to torch the whole project. Ashen Horde show how talented they are, and none of this albums problems are enough to make it a bad record. They’re just enough to turn what could have been one of my favorite albums of the year into a solid release. This record is for you if you like long-form black metal and flashy musicianship over ambitious writing.
- The Throes Of Agony
- The Consort
- The Barrister
- The Physician
- The Courtesan
- The Disciple
- The Neophyte
- Animus Nocendi
Total Playing Time: 51:03