Bands that become larger than their sound are not very common. Many times, bands play within the genre confines, sometimes to their detriment, but at least they know the blueprint and can follow it through. Those that transcend are the ones that become truly special.
Saying that, Ash Borer have gone so above and beyond pure black metal, that they operate in a rarified environment that has most of the metal world looking up at them. For nearly a decade now, the band has incinerated any playbook or rules set and gone their own way. Their three full length albums—their latest we discuss today, the awesome “The Irrepassable Gate”—have set new standards and have spawned a ton of bands trying to recreate their magic but not coming very close. Ash Borer doesn’t create albums as much as their do auras, an environment in which you can get lost, charred, and returned, with your potential for dreaming expanded. Their massive sound is so large and encompassing, it goes beyond black metal into something most of us didn’t know could exist before this band came into our world.
Having formed in 2008, Ash Borer launched and immediately started doing interesting things that helped change what we know as black metal. Its members operate somewhat in the shadows, going by singular letters as names—K on guitars and vocals, A on guitars, R on bass and vocals, M on drums—and their members create terrors in bands including Triumvir Foul, Predatory Light, Urzeit, Vanum, Serug Dreg, and many others, but what they do here stands apart from their myriad other projects. Following a couple of demos and a split release with like-minded Fell Voices, the band’s first full-length, a self-titled affair, arrived in 2011, and their second, “Cold of Ages,” dropped a year after that. So, it’s been four years since we got a new full album, and the wait was worth it.
The 11:49 title track opens the record, with a dark, doomy pall spread over everything, as the music tumbles into the void. Savage growls mix into the chaos, as the tempo swirls and the fire kicks up. The guitars burn while the vocals wrench, with the whole thing speeding ahead, more atmosphere mixed into the bleeding, and then things oddly lightening up. Melodies then hurdle through the fear, with the sounds hovering and subsiding. “Lacerated Spirit” goes 10:08, beginning with lurching doom and trickling slowly into an eerie fog. Static and noise join forces, and the cymbal strikes indicate something morbid is coming. That ends up being a furious eruption, as the music throttles, the vocals choke you down, and strong melodies slip into the picture, bringing a dash of lighting energy, and coming to a blistering finish. “Lustration I” brings the first half to an end, an instrumental cut that has clean guitars chiming, bringing in a dream-state fog. Strange feelings rumble, and the song fades into clouds.
“Grey Marrow” starts in the midst of thick hypnosis, leaving your head swimming and wondering if it can get control again. Lead guitars cut in and rip apart the tempo, with riffs splintering your mind, and growls and roars making their impact. Melodies spiral in the atmosphere, while wild howls penetrate, sinewy guitars add bruising, and the final minute becomes a tornadic loop. “Rotten Firmament” is the longest cut at 12:37, as the room spins right away, and the growls begin to chew on your muscles. Melodies snake and rage, while the track hits the gas pedal and achieves warp speed, rocketing through the stars before pulling up on the force. From there, guitars whir and boil before another burst, as melodies confound, sounds keep regenerating, and the track erodes in the face of hurricane-force winds. Closer “Lustration II” is a morbid instrumental that rears its head out of the fog. Crazed wails and psychologically warped riffs do their part to elevate the drama, and the track fades out into a trippy, cosmic cloud of sound.
Ash Borer’s world has expanded and morphed along with them, and “The Irrepassable Gate” continues their long line of mind-stretching, genre-defying black metal. The band keeps pushing what it means to create metal and remains one of the most unique creative forces anywhere. Ash Borer’s trajectory is up and traveling at dangerous speeds, and only a cosmic disaster would be strong enough to stop them.
For more on the band, go here: http://www.ashborer.net/
To buy the album, go here: https://www.profoundlorerecords.com/products-page/
For more on the label, go here: https://www.profoundlorerecords.com/