In 2019 very few (if any) people foresaw all the global upheavals that the immediately following years would produce — a global pandemic, the damage caused by rapidly accelerating climate change, and a ravaging war in Europe, among other catastrophes. The Australian band Claret Ash didn’t foresee them either, at least not in all of those specifics, but what happened did depressingly dovetail with an imaginative narrative they had already begun, and informed where it would then unfold in a tale of societal collapse.
In December of last year, almost five years after the release of their last album The Great Adjudication: Fragment Two, the band began a new musical sequence called WORLDTORN. As explained by the band in an exclusive interview you’ll find at the end of this feature, it “picks up from where the last album, The Great Adjudication, finished by focusing on events after the collapse of society and the eradication of humanity”.
Clarest Ash launched WORLDTORN in December with the single “GATEWAYS” (reviewed by us here). Thematically, it described a world in turmoil, reeling from an “anthropocentric holocaust” during which nature had mutated and become the supreme force and humans were forced into hiding.
And now Claret Ash will be following that initial chapter of their continuing narrative with a second installment, a new EP named WORLDTORN: Anemoia that’s set for release on CD and digital formats by Hypnotic Dirge Records on August 11, 2023. In addition to the afore-mentioned interview, it’s our pleasure today to premiere the EP’s electrifying opening song, “Cascadence of the Twilight“.
We’ve been avidly and closely following the progress of Claret Ash since early days, experiencing (and frequently writing about) the flowering of their formulation of black metal into a multi-faceted experience that’s emotionally involving and atmospheric, but also intricate and elaborate, yet still undeniably ferocious.
On the evidence of “GATEWAYS” and the song off the new EP that you’re about to hear, it’s fair to say that their creative fires have never burned brighter. Though the world has descended into various forms of calamity and discord since their last album, the band’s lineup and compositional process has changed in positive ways (a subject discussed in the interview you’ll find below), and the results are impressive, even as compared to the band’s very impressive previous works.
The new song you’re about to hear picks up the story that began with “GATEWAYS“. As the band explain,
“Cascadence of the Twilight explores the calling to man from one’s dreams, commanding them to wake up. With a poisoned future, only the man’s sacrifice will bring an end to this pain. Transcending this life to reconnect with those that have passed on from the living. Those in the twilight will never be forgotten.”
The music itself is immediately turbulent — drums racing in a battering surge, bass throbbing in a fury, the music blazing like extravagant fire in the heavens, the words coming in vicious snarls and crazed and cutting howls.
The first of many changes arrives when the headlong race briefly switches to a stomping pace and the guitars jolt and quiver before burning again, and there’s more to come in this ravishing kaleidoscope of sound. Singing voices reverently rise up in tandem with obliterating shrieks as the drums boom and the multi-layered riffing maniacally roils. Double-bass thunder rolls, and chords blare in a manifestation of frightening magnificence, even as vocalist James sounds like he’s cutting his own throat.
A clarion-clear guitar solo frantically flies toward the skies, wailing and screaming, leading the music toward a breathtaking crescendo, only to give way suddenly to acoustic strumming and grim but ardent singing that seems to echo off catacomb walls. The drums tumble and clatter again, the bass becomes an avalanche, endless wails extend in harrowing fashion, and the riffing channels confusion and anguish in sweeping swaths.
Near the end the band jolt the listener’s spine again before one last wild race, trailing sparks and fire.
This is the first of two new songs on the Anemoia EP. In addition to those songs, the EP also includes two reimagined re-recordings from previous releases and an orchestral rendition of the song you just heard. In the interview below, the band discuss all of these tracks, and provide more insights into their evolution since their last album — and signs of where they’re going with future plans.
As of today, WORLDTORN: Anemoia is available for pre-order from Hypnotic Dirge. And for fans in Australia (or within striking distance), Claret Ash have got new gigs lined up, and you can follow the details via the social media links below.
CLARET ASH INTERVIEW
Last December Claret Ash began a new musical sequence called WORLDTORN, announced by the song “Gateways”. Thematically, it described a world in turmoil, reeling from an “anthropocentric holocaust” during which nature had mutated and become the supreme force and humans were forced into hiding. There was a suggestion that they might form alliances and emerge again to reclaim their place in the ruined world. How do the two new songs on the Anemoia EP carry that tale forward?
The WORLDTORN series picks up from where the last album, The Great Adjudication, finished by focusing on events after the collapse of society and the eradication of humanity.
GATEWAYS showed the human side of the situation, how they were impacted and how the balance had tipped out of their favour.
ANEMOIA returns to nature’s side of the situation.
Cascadence of the Twilight explores the calling to man from one’s dreams, commanding them to wake up. With a poisoned future, only the man’s sacrifice will bring an end to this pain. Transcending this life to reconnect with those that have passed on from the living. Those in the twilight will never be forgotten.
Invocation of the Dream Weavers is a twisted tale of mind control, implantation of visions and memory replacement. There is an essence of dream time, sleep walking and soul stealing to the song.
The trees, the guardians of nature, have a life cycle that is an evolving consciousness. Mushrooms, spores, berries, hypnotic winds, and the rhythmic movements voiced from the forest – these ancestors use all available natural resources to inflict hallucinations, delusions and psychosis to command and control those entities, humans or others that wander past.
How do you see the evolution of your music, as expressed in Gateways and Anemoia, compared to The Great Adjudication albums from five and six years ago?
We now have all four core members contributing to the riffs and themes of Claret Ash‘s music, whereas The Great Adjudication was crafted by three members and previous releases (mainly) by James. There was a lot of material written over the last few years, so nurturing, dissecting and manipulating the new material was a complicated process to get right. We feel this was the most rewarding experience due to the collaborative process.
ANEMOIA is the result of a major paradigm shift in the way Claret Ash composes music – brought about by the pandemic and the subsequent restriction on our ability to interact creatively. In contrast to The Great Adjudication, which was crafted in person intensely over the course of nearly 18 months, ANEMOIA was an answer to the frustration we felt as artists, musicians and performers at being able to do very few of those things in the way that we needed.
ANEMOIA and GATEWAYS acted as a salve to our confusion and helplessness over the future of the band in the pandemic and post-pandemic world. Witnessing the world’s response to the pandemic – both the good and the bad – drove home many of the concepts that were mere speculation in the The Great Adjudication. We felt that we couldn’t just continue to write music as if nothing had happened – as if we hadn’t just witnessed in real time the themes of The Great Adjudication unfolding on a global scale. This release, and WORLDTORN in general, is our catharsis.
For us, the feeling and energy from both GATEWAYS and the AMEMOIA EP, is a natural evolution from The Great Adjudication, but with the core sound still intact. Cascadence of the Twilight could very well be another song on THE GREAT ADJUDICATION – FRAGMENT TWO and it would not feel out of place. We believe a lot of this has to do with Dr Mike Trubestkov (EOL Studios) and his amazing work on our last three releases; ANEMOIA, GATEWAYS and THE GREAT ADJUDICATION – FRAGMENT TWO.
Mike has a firm grasp on our sound and is a fan of our work as well. He is almost a silent member of the band at this stage and his passion and care for his work is showcased in ANEMOIA. He has helped us to retain the human and natural feel to our sound and able to obtain an amazing while not overtly overproducing or editing the life and breath away from the atmosphere.
To what extent do you attribute the musical changes to the changes in Claret Ash’s lineup? Has the method of composing the music changed?
We are all multi-instrumentalists and strive to balance the line of technical music, emotions, atmospheric and executing it as perfectly as humanly possible.
We think the new lineup has thrown up challenges to each other growing the Claret Ash sound into avenues we have yet to explore.
This is the first release where we have used 7-string guitars which has added a lot more heaviness to certain parts of our sound, while we don’t use the low string on every section or riff so the balance of new/old is maintained.
As James has now moved onto playing bass guitar, the bass lines have evolved into a more dominant focus with certain parts popping out where appropriate, rather than the subdued nature of previous albums.
We are all now united in the thematic vision for Claret Ash – progressive, layered, intense musical pieces that also present unorthodox dichotomies of sound; as composers we all now follow where the songs take us, generally without anything more guiding as than a simple concept, line of dialogue or a single riff. It’s now a truly protean band, with all the members’ artistic visions driving each composition in a clash of tastes, experiences and musical ideologies.
A decade has now passed since the release of your debut album Ground Dweller, and you’ve said that the new EP includes a remembrance of that past achievement in the re-recording of that album’s title song, even as the band have moved on into different musical territory. Could you explain why you chose to do that, and how the new version differs from what preceded it?
From when Adam joined back in 2019, we have had Ground Dweller in our live set list for almost every gig Claret Ash has done. Adam felt that there was a certain energy and essence conveyed in the live version that wasn’t captured in the original studio version. With this re-recording we can breathe the life back into this band favourite and align the studio version to the speed and energy of how we play it live.
As an additional element in order to capture the essence and maintain the authenticity of the track, the main vocals were also recorded in one single take. While vocals have always been a focus for James to attack again and again in order to get the best output, this older track has become second nature and has been a great achievement to execute.
The new EP also includes a song called “The Wolves Have Fed Again”, which seems connected to the closing song “The Wolves Have Fed Tonight” from The Cleansing (2015). Can you give us an idea of what you did on that song and how it connects to the earlier one?
During the recording of The Great Adjudication, James and Josh sat down and jammed a few of the previous album tracks on acoustics, just to see how they’d sound. We mainly played with the songs “II” and “The Wolves Have Fed Tonight”.
“Wolves” always had a real melancholy touch to it anyway, rounding out The Cleansing on a quiet note, and lyrically it’s thematically still representative of where ANEMOIA is taking Claret Ash as part of the WORLDTORN concept. Additionally, “Wolves” heavily features clean singing, which lent itself well to acoustic interpretation.
Finally – it represents one of the few true collaborations between Josh and James on an entire track for The Cleansing, as Josh came on late in the writing process. It is a fine bookend to a creative relationship that has been nurtured over the last 10 years.
Finally, the EP includes an orchestral version of the EP’s opening song, the one we’re premiering today. What was your thinking about including that track, and what it might offer that’s different from the experience of the opening song?
In writing and playing the main hook of the song – the opening riff and lead over the top, coupled with James’ lyrics – it became quite apparent that we’d hit on a real well of emotion that the heavy version of the song only just scratches the surface of.
This song was also one of the first tracks in Claret Ash‘s history that James didn’t write any of the riffs or passages. It struck such an emotional reaction with the musical themes that James sat down and learned it on piano, creating another musical experience for the song.
A new life and emotional journey was explored through this process and stripping back some of the layers and vocals meant it could be reimagined and explored in a new way. We hope that after hearing the opener track “Cascadence of the Twilight‘, that the orchestral version will really hit home with the listeners in their own personal way.
We have always wanted to explore the Claret Ash sound via acoustics, choir and orchestral elements, and this release became the perfect vessel for these experimental ideas.
Can you give us any hints about the future trajectory of the WORLDTORN sequence, such as how the story continues to unfold, when we could expect the next release, and how many releases you have planned before the story ends? Or even whether we might encounter new variations in the music? (We’re also happy to be surprised!)
The WORLDTORN lyrics and story are evolving and will adapt to the music as it unfolds. Claret Ash have always had a set theme and vision throughout our songs but we are at a point now in the story where we can expand and build on the story.
The WORLDTORN series also gives us flexibility for our next releases. With all members currently contributing to the music we have a much higher drive for creation and output. While we will never rush a release, the series means we can release a single, EP or an album under the same banner.
We hope that following our upcoming tour in Japan supporting Marduk, that we will dive straight back into the studio to collect the next few songs. What output and timeline the next release follows will be as it comes.