Ash Borer’s black metal turns on cosmic gazing with genre-altering ‘Cold of Ages’

If anyone out there doesn’t believe in cosmic happenings and alignments, allow me to blow your mind. The very morning that photos from the Mars Rover made their way to Earth, I got very excited to see what was coming back. I wanted some fitting background music for seeing these images for the first time, and literally the second I clicked on the story, the new album from Ash Borer landed in my inbox.

Not that the band is on some sort of intergalactic adventure or something, but they’d certainly be fitting for setting a mood for stretching the mind. As heavy and disruptive as the band can be at times, I never fail to gaze into the distance and do heavy thinking while listening to their music. It’s well documented on this site that music of that nature appeals to me, and for the last couple years, Ash Borer have been one of my go-to bands anytime I want to spend time concentrating, reading, or examining because they keep me mentally stimulated while allowing my brain to work on more weighty subject matter that takes some effort.

So it was that my first experience I had with “Cold of Ages” coincided with my space dreams and curiosity over seeing new shots of a far-away land (granted, these images were pretty miniscule, but it didn’t prevent me from imagining what was beyond the frame). I didn’t know quite what to expect, which is always the case with Ash Borer, but when those alien keys washed over during the introduction to opening track “Descended Lamentations,” I realized there probably was no better soundtrack than this song. Then everything exploded and we were off on a black metal voyage through time and space, with doors to other dimensions being torn off hinges with their aggressive assault, proper time to float steadily being worked into the mix when the pace slowed and they took on passages that reminded me of some of the more mystical moments of FALSE’s work, and then everything came back around again with the speedy, furious ending. Out of breath, completely.

“Cold of Ages” is the band’s second full-length effort, with their self-titled debut dropping last year on Psychic Violence. They also have a couple of demos to their name, a split with Fell Voices, and last year’s cassette discography compilation that wasn’t produced in terribly large numbers and was nearly impossible to track down. So the California-based band has been quite busy since their inception in 2008, and with each release, their sound gets bigger, bolder, and more impossible to classify. Yes, it’s black metal at its heart, and it’s harsh and uncompromising, but this new album finds Ash Borer incorporating way more synth into their stew, with N (Nhate Clmnt of Servile Sect) taking on a large role creating mood and atmosphere. It adds a surprising and lush element to the band’s chaotic violence that wasn’t there quite on this level before.

The rest of the singular letter-monikered band — K on vocals and guitars, A on guitars, R on bass, M on drums, and, naturally, N — has grown even deadlier, obliterating your senses with their sheer power and will, and pulling you back in from your daydreams with infectious guitar work that is weaved into every song. They always find a sticky spot in various sections of their sprawling epics that are designed to pull you back to center, and when you do refocus on the matter, you can’t help but surrender to their will and take the entire ride with the band. This is something that gets more apparent with each listen. And you’ll need many listens for complete digestion.

The shortest song on this album is tiny, little “Phantoms,” clocking in at 11:25 and sounding like endless sheets of a thunderstorm. Interestingly, K’s voice takes on a different dynamic and he seemingly digs as far into his chest as possible and comes up with something that sounds like Brian Johnson being tortured. It’s effective, sounds like it hurts, and adds a new depth of intensity to a song that runs the gamut of sound dynamics but ends in cold, icy keys.

“Convict All Flesh” is the longest cut here at 18:09, and it covers a country’s worth of terrain. The song opens with piercing guitar notes hanging in the air, slips into slow, doomy threads, eventually erupts like a comet striking land, and continues to shape shift toward its conclusion. The song is chock full of emotion, K howls like he’s trying to be heard from an ocean away, and the conclusion blasts into something angrier and faster than anything else on the album. Also on that track, adding a level of ghostly beauty, is Worm Ouroboros’ Jessica Way, whose gorgeous voice just chills. Closer “Removed Forms,” that also features Way, tests your will, opening with a spoonful of deathrock courtesy of coldly plucked clean guitar, but four minutes into this dirge, the explosion happens, dizzying guitar work shakes your body, synth is layered in like a thick fog, and cathartic melodies and shouts push things to the limit. It ends in total devastation, almost like a world burning to its core, making one wonder what those Mars photos may have looked like had we gone there thousands of years ago.

Every time Ash Borer emerge from hiding with a new piece of music, their brilliance comes more into focus. This band quickly is becoming one of the most important in all of United States black metal, and soon, with more records like “Cold of Ages,” those parameters should expand to the world. There is nothing but genuine, human emotion coming from this band, and they choose such a medium because their message is so powerful, only this sound could serve their overall purpose. Ash Borer is one intense machine that should only get more catastrophic as time elapses.

For more on the band, go here:

To buy the album, go here:

For more on the label, go here: