Jun 212012

(Credit for all photos in this post: Alyssa Lorenzon.)


(Listen up: BadWolf presents his favorite black metal album of 2012 to date.)

2012 has been a great year for metal so far, can we agree on that? Unlike 2011, several strong acts, veteran and green alike,  took initiative in releasing powerful works of doom and death metal. On the other hand, the black end of the spectrum has yet to blow me away (although rumor has it that Hell’s Headbangers‘ summer lineup will slaughter). Dodecahedron deserves a second look, and the new Abigail Williams collected strong accolades, both here and elsewhere, but other than that I’m drawing a blank.

Rather, I was drawing a blank until Doug Moore of InvisibleOranges referred me to Ashencult. The Philadelphia PA 4-piece outfit released their debut album, Black Flame Gnosis, on May 31 through Bandcamp. I’ve listened through twice today, and it’s giving me the fever (aye aye).


This review will be short; take its brevity as a compliment to Ashencult. I have few thoughts other than ‘this is good music,’ followed by ‘this is not the most original take on the genre,’ then rebuffed a third time by ‘I don’t give a fuck, this is still great music.’ Clearly these musicians carry a torch for melodic black metal classics like Immortal and Dissection. On the more contemporary end of things, they would be strong candidates for a tour with Vreid or Watain. Or think of it this way: if Bloodguard ever plays PA, I think Andy Synn knows who to play with.

Indeed, their Bandcamp page evokes the Norma Evangelium Diaboli label: the musicians in Ashencult go by single-letter names, and their Bandcamp tags refer to a ‘wolven brotherhood,’ which apparently consists solely of Ashencult. That’s to be expected—one member of the band (though I’m not sure which, stupid anonymity…) works for Season of Mist records.

For a first album, Black Flame Gnosis sounds professional. I’d be curious to see what sort of money went into it. The guitars use enough distortion to carry an aggressive mood, but still project the melodies with clarity. The tone is meaty, I’m guessing vintage distortion and passive pickups. The most ‘traditional’ element here are the shrieked, echo-filled vocals—super sinister, more so incomprehensible. Of special note: the drum sound on this record is huge. Ashencult may have the best snare sound I’ve ever heard on a Bandcamp release. Sometimes the drummer will strike a huge 80’s style snare-and-tom boom to push these songs really over the edge.

As for the songs themselves, Ashencult do a great job of mixing thrashy black metal with the occasional groove, rock, and punk elements. Just in the opening track, “A Glorious Elegy,” the band switch from traditional black metal to Goatwhore-style black-n-roll before ending on an acoustic guitar and carrying the listener right into the second track, “The Isolate,” with a seamless swell of distortion. Those folk-inflected acoustic interludes pop up again and again in a very Metallica-like way, and provide great contrast with the jagged noises that follow them—“Dark Law/ Black Fires of Chaos” sounds like Master of Puppets-era ‘tallica interbred with Blood Fire Death-era Bathory. They jam comfortably on the short, nearly hardcore, “Race of the Blood Insane,” as well as longer journeys like “The Whore and the Failure of Light.”

Black Flame Gnosis is currently streaming at Bandcamp (HERE), and is available at a pay-what-you-want scale. I recommend downloading it immediately, as this may be your last chance to get free Ashencult. Considering members of the band already work at great labels, combined with the stellar quality of their debut, I doubt Ashencult will remain unsigned too much longer unless that decision is completely by choice. If someone can, they will pick this band up—they just released my favorite black metal record of 2012 so far.


  1. And the hit keep on coming!!!! this is just one fine black metal album and yeah they should be pick up!!!! So great black metal album + free=win for all of us!!!! @islander thanks for recommending this band. Now for what is worth I’m a sucka for NCS.

  2. Yeah, I think this should be right up my street…

    Also, this year has been good for black metal imo so far.

    • examples plox

      • Well the new Marduk and Enthroned are the best examples I can think of of full on sturm-und-drang black metal, but otherwise Secrets of The Moon is rarely off my playlist, the new Reverence balances weird and caustic really well, and the aforementioned Abigail Williams is a classic.

        But the prog-side of BM has some great stuff too. Borknagar’s latest is phenomenal, as is the new Vintersorg. The new Ihsahn is great too.

        And we’ve got new ones from Dark Funeral, Enslaved and Nachtmystium still to come as well.

      • Aura Noir’s newest album is blackened thrash at its finest.

        • I forgot that one.

          And Goatwhore.

          Though I tried to stick to bands that wouldn’t promote the are they/aren’t they black metal argument.

          The new Deathspell as well. And possibly a new Blut Aus Nord?

      • Couple of OK releases this year so far:

        Ash Pool – Cremation is Irreversible
        Blodhemn’s – Holmengraa
        Mgła – With Hearts Toward None

        and of course new DsO

  3. Here’s another great black metal release from 2012 that happens to be a bandcamp free download http://fallenempire.bandcamp.com/album/widrstand

    New Mutilation Rites and Shroud of Despondency are good also.

  4. Black metal bands with 2012 releases:





    I gotta disagree about this year being better in terms of death and doom though. Seems pretty dead for the most part. Been a good year for blackened death though

  5. The Wolven Brotherhood most certainly does not consist soley of Ashencult. Other bands include Tombstalker, Coffindust, Valdrin, Primitive Ways, Mangled, Cape of Bats, and a whole lot of other dedicated dudes. I know because me and my friends started it. Might want to get your facts straight bub before you go offending anyone else.

    • Can’t really blame him for not knowing about an obscure coalition of pretty unknown bands…

    • I click on the tag link on Bandcamp, and no other bands show up. [http://bandcamp.com/tag/wolven-brotherhood?artist=595569973] Don’t know what that’s about.

      Either way, if those other bands sound anything like Ashencult, they have my full support. (I am the Wolf after all)

      Here’s my gripe though: I’m not sure how referring a (pretty large) audience to your friend’s band is in any way offensive, especially if they don’t go out of the way to cross-list those other bands. That seems a bit specious, to me.

      That said, this comment links to my email. Send me a full rundown and I will listen to each and every one and blog about any I enjoy. Fair enough recompense?

  6. Intriguing. I needed all of thirty seconds to make my decision to download this. I shall have to listen further.

  7. That was quite excellent! A contender for top black metal releases of the year perhaps!
    Master’s Hammer, Witch in her Tomb, Dodecahedron, Marduk, and Hunter’s Ground are all there.
    I’m also looking forward to hearing
    Ereb Altor
    Vatnett Viskar
    in addition to what’s already been mentioned.

    Speaking of Enshadowed, does anyone know anything about the album? I can’t find any release date info for it.

    • Me neither. And I’ve been watching for it like some sort of internet-dwelling hawk that feeds on information-mice.

    • I just did some checking and found a comment from Enshadowed on their FB page (replying to a fan question) that the release won’t happen until after the summer due to a decision by the Pulverised label. The album also shows up as an upcoming vinyl release on this site, but with no specific release date mentioned.


  8. Two other Wolven Brotherhood groups I forgot to mention include Casket and Hessian.

  9. Dirt Worshipper, Vattnet Viskar, VYGR, Autolatry, Ashencult

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