(We are very happy to present the premiere stream of the new album by Claret Ash in advance of its April 30 release by Casus Belli Musica and Beverina, preceded by Andy Synn’s review.)
Reviewing this album has been something of a strange experience for me, since I’ve actually already written about half of it last year, when the first five tracks were released as The Great Adjudication: Fragment One.
Now though, with the addition of seven more songs (which, I suppose, collectively make up Fragment Two), the band are all set to release the complete version of The Great Adjudication next month in its full, seventy-five minute glory.
The big question of course, is whether the Australian quartet’s gamble is going to pay off, whether these additional tracks will serve to enhance and improve that initial experience, or whether their decision to split the record up into two separate sequences of songs – and then attempt to recombine them for the album proper – is going to blow up in their faces.
Obviously the opening five tracks haven’t changed at all since their first appearance in November of last year, so we can breeze past those pretty quickly. Suffice it to say that I still think they represent some damn good riff-heavy and melody-infused Black Metal, and if you want to read a more detailed analysis you should click here.
Moving on to the “new” material, I can immediately put to rest one potential fear which you may have by stating that, despite being recorded/mixed/mastered separately, there’s no appreciable difference in sound/production separating the two “fragments” of The Great Adjudication, and the morbid melancholy of “The Gyre” transitions pretty seamlessly into the baleful strains of “Behold the Chalice” without interruption or incident.
It should be pointed out though that while there may not be an obvious or explicit divide between the songs at this point, the first five songs ultimately still feel like a separate, discreet entity, when compared to the tracks which make up Fragment Two (which themselves seem to have their own collective dynamic).
Of course there is a chance that this is simply an external artefact caused by my own knowledge that the album is made up of two different (though interrelated) releases, and so may not influence other listeners quite as much, but it felt like something which needed saying out all the same.
That being said, there’s a plethora of blackened brilliance on display across the length and breadth of this album/compilation, and the Aussie quartet seem to have put just as much thought and effort into the writing and recording of Fragment Two as they did its predecessor, and could even be said to have pushed the more atmospheric/progressive side of their sound even further in places (such as on the spellbinding “Like Tears in Rain”).
Perhaps more interestingly, although the press release which accompanies this album specifies Wolves In The Throne Room and Der Weg Einer Freiheit as useful points of comparison (and not necessarily inaccurately, as tracks like “Vicissitude” and “The Great Adjudication” so ably demonstrate), it’s the sonic similarities to early-2000s-era Gorgoroth which often ring most strongly in my ears, with numbers like “The Fragility of Existence” and “The Great Moth That Swallowed the Sun” showcasing a similarly evocative blend of crunchy, chugging riffs and buzzing, bleakly-melodic tremolo lines, while the dual lead/backing vocals provided by guitarists James Edmeades and Josh Pearse frequently hearken back to Gaahl at his menacing, multifaceted best, moving from a serrated, saw-toothed snarl to a gruesome, guttural growl, to a surprisingly solemn and sombre clean-sung delivery, with devilish grace and poise.
If all this sounds intriguing, well, now you have the opportunity to listen to the whole album and make up your own mind(s), as we’ve been fortunate to score an exclusive premiere of the entirety of The Great Adjudication which you can check out below. So why not give it a listen, see if you like what you hear, and then join me/us in the comments section with your reactions.
The Great Adjudication features cover art by Samuel Nelson (Stigma Art). It will be released by Casus Belli Musica and Beverina on April 30 (CD, LP, and digital). Pre-orders are available now at Bandcamp. The full stream via YouTube is below, along with a track list index.
Claret Ash on Facebook:
1. Essence Of Fire 00:00
2. Devolution 06:42
3. The Noose 12:28
4. Plague Bearer 18:48
5. The Gyre 24:40
6. Behold the Chalice 32:54
7. Like Tears in Rain 38:13
8. Vicissitude 43:33
9. The Fragility of Existence 50:52
10. The Great Moth that Swallowed the Sun 56:02
11. The Great Adjudication 01:02:02
12. Betrayal am I 01:09:46