Oct 092016



Over the last week, as I sporadically checked our e-mails and scanned my Facebook feed, I made a growing list of new black metal songs and a few full releases that I wanted to check out this weekend as candidates for this Shades of Black series. As seems to happen fairly often, I found so many excellent tracks when I worked through the list that I couldn’t bring myself to leave many of them behind. And so I’ve got another two-part Shades of Black for you. It’s a grey, dank day outside here in the Pacific Northwest, so the odds are that I’ll be able to get Part 2 written and posted later today.


Four years on from their last album Cold of Ages, California’s Ash Borer (whose members have also kept themselves busy with many other musical projects) now have a third one on the way. The new one is The Irrepassable Gate and it’s set for release by Profound Lore on December 2, adorned by excellent cover art created by Glyn Smyth (Stag & Serpent). Continue reading »

Jul 192014


Part 2 of this report is here; Part 3 is here.

The three-day Gilead Fest organized by Gilead Media began yesterday in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, at one of the three locations pictured above.

The first night was indeed loaded with power, and by the end of the evening there was certainly plenty of work available for a coroner, but if you guessed the Oshkosh Masonic Center, give yourself a pat on the back. Continue reading »

Mar 302013

(photo credit: Brooklyn Vegan)

This is a journal of an impromptu musical experience that made me think of the ocean.

There is a venue in Seattle called The Black Lodge. Other than someone’s back yard or basement, it’s probably the most underground metal venue in Seattle. It’s BYOB and the calendar of shows spreads mainly by word of mouth. There was a show planned there for the night of March 26, but within the preceding 24 hours or so there was a change, and the bands scheduled to play there were added to a pre-existing line-up at a different venue, The Highline.

Not knowing anything about the original Black Lodge bill or about the last-minute change (the word did not reach my mouth), I was simply interested in seeing the bands who were already lined up for The Highline, which included Today Is The Day and Black Tusk. I showed up with two friends and discovered to my amazement that the first two bands I would be hearing were Ash Borer and Aldebaran (we got there too late to catch the opening act, Fight Amp).

I would have killed your mother to see those two bands had I known they were in town. Your mother was spared, and I got to see them anyway. It was an experience I’ll remember for a long time. I wish I had brought my camera, but like I said, this was an impromptu experience. Continue reading »

Feb 192013

With relatively few hammer blows, Ash Borer have already chiseled their name into the obsidian edifice of American black metal. They’re bringing the hammer down again with the the impending debut of their newest album Bloodlands, which will be co-released on vinyl by Gilead Media and Psychic Violence.

I’ve been following the band since discovering their 2011 split with Fell Voices, and each release has brought signs of growth and deeper exploration into the heart of darkness, with their 2012 Profound Lore release Cold of Ages (reviewed here) really cementing their reputation as a band worth watching closely.

On Bloodlands, Ash Borer continue to throw themselves (even more intensely) into the uses of long-form music as a palette for the creation of emotion-changing soundscapes, and confronting even more daringly the concomitant challenge of maintaining listener interest over songs of extended length: Bloodlands includes only two tracks, one about 15 minutes in duration (“Oblivion’s Spring”) and the second running about 20 minutes (“Dirge/Purgation”).

The average human attention span being what it is here in the 21st century, i.e., only slightly longer than that of a hummingbird, the challenge is evident. But, in the right hands, the opportunities for pulling listeners along in a truly immersive experience also can’t be matched by songs of normal length. This is the tightrope Ash Borer have chosen to walk, high above the ground without a net. On Bloodlands, they walk the line confidently, never losing their balance.  Continue reading »

Nov 162012

(Guest contributor Kaptain Carbon is getting a head start on year-end listmania with a most amusing review of albums he missed earlier in the year. Despite the fact that I laughed out loud on numerous occasions, I haven’t forgotten that the Kaptain owes me a Russian Nesting Doll. Some things you don’t forget.)

Well, I am now a guest in another person’s house. I should take my shoes off and pretend I eat with my pants on. No Clean Singing put out a call for entries and usually I would be hosting board game night in my basement over at Tape Wyrm but now I am here. What a lovely house you have. I really love your collection of Russian Nesting Dolls. Oh dear, I think this one may be broken. I’ll set it down right here.

2012 is almost done and we will soon all be judged before the great cosmic eye. Before our fate is weighed on the gilded scales at an altar of ivory and blood, we all have to go through our end of the year lists. Yes, before the inevitable reckoning, where December is consumed in an omnipresence hellfire, we have to make our top 10s of 2012. Now, we all know it will probably go to the new Marilyn Manson record, but there is also the matter of the stacks of records which now make a castle on your coffee table. Look at this mess. Look at all of this stuff you said you were going to listen to but never did. You are a horrible human. I found this Abigail Williams record in the vegetable crisper.

I recently went through my library and pulled out all of the 2012 records I meant to review but never got around to doing so because I am a terrible metal-hating human being who secretly loves everything which you hate. I just want to make sure I did not miss anything, so I am going to go through this pile of laundry and rifle through its contents before throwing it back on the ground. Sure, things will still be messy, but there was production involved.

It is time to revisit the forgotten, at least by me, and the never-heard of 2012. Sure, No Clean Singing is giving me a wonderful opportunity to share some of my work with you, but let’s be honest, I woke up late and I am doing my homework while running to class. Thank you No Clean Singing for this opportunity and fuck you, you motherfucking stupid cocksucking alarm WHERE ARE MY KEYS? Continue reading »

Aug 132012

Though very much adhering to an underground ethos and relying largely on word of mouth and distribution by tape and vinyl, Ash Borer have nevertheless succeeded in spreading their name and their music in ever-widening circles. Their 2009 demo opened a lot of eyes, as did their excellent 2010 split with Fell Voices, but their 2011 debut album (self-titled) really put them on the map. It made many Best of the Year lists (including five that we posted here at NCS) and was praised by BadWolf in our review; in an extended metaphor, he compared it (repeatedly) to sex.

As good as their previous releases have been, however, it turns out they were all just preparation, a slow build to the band’s first album on the Profound Lore label, which is scheduled for release on August 14. On Cold of Ages, Ash Borer have mastered the art of immersion, creating a completely entrancing (if often disturbing) musical experience that should land them on even more Best of Year lists when 2012 draws to a close.

Black metal takes many shapes. Though usually united in certain readily identifiable instrumental and vocal techniques, or at least by a certain unbridled aesthetic, the music spans a continually expanding soundscape. It encompasses everything from black thrash to black ‘n’ roll, from hybridized black/death to avant garde shoegaze, from blasting evisceration to occult-themed psychedelic pop to caustic forms of post-metal. Ash Borer have devoted themselves to richly atmospheric, long-form music — the kind of black metal that tests the listener’s attention span, but when successful, is capable of establishing deep emotional connections and firing the imagination. In that respect, Cold of Ages is an unqualified success.

And Cold of Ages is definitely long-form, with four tracks ranging in length from more than 11 minutes to over 18. Attention is indeed required, but there’s a big payoff — and not much risk of your mind wandering away before you get to the album’s end. Continue reading »

Jun 292012

Yes, I’m still trying out titles for these posts in which I collect metal news, new videos, and new music that I’ve seen recently. I mean no disrespect to any of the bands featured in this post. In my lexicon, “riff-raff” is a compliment, plus I really wanted some alliteration; otherwise I probably would have called this “Rounding Up the Motherfuckers”.

Yesterday I saw and heard a lot of things worth passing on, so I’m dividing this collection into two parts, with the second part to follow a little later this morning. In this Part 1 are observations involving new albums from two excellent bands —Results by Murder Construct and Cold of Ages by Ash Borer — plus a recent live performance by In Mourning caught on film, plus a from-the-horse’s-mouth report on a potential Mastodon collaboration with Opeth’s Mikael Åkerfeldt and In Flames’ Björn Gelotte.


This band is a super-group of sorts, featuring Cattle Decapitation’s Travis Ryan on vocals, Exhumed/Phobia/Impaled’s Leon del Muerte on guitar and vocals, Intronaut/Uphill Battle’s Danny Walker on drums, Bad Acid Trip’s Caleb Schneider on bass, and Fetus Eaters/Watch Me Burn’s Kevin Fetus also on guitar. The name of their game is death-grind, and I fuckin’ loved their 2010 self-titled debut (described here). Continue reading »

Dec 092011

(Music as sex.  BadWolf reviews the self-titled debut album by California’s Ash Borer, which has been making more than a few Best of 2011 lists.)

My favorite bands tend to write longer songs, and yet longform heavy metal intimidates me. The thought of going a full 20 minutes without changing a song terrifies me—I blame the iPod in my pocket, which might as well be part of my anatomy now. Perhaps I’m scared of commitment; some women in Toledo, Ohio, and Kalamazoo, Michigan, will attest to this, and in many ways loving music is like romance. There are plenty of fish in the sea and my time is valuable; I cannot date every good-looking metal record for a full six months before deciding whether or not I want it to stick around. It’s a risky game to play—lots of great records don’t make good first impressions (I hated …And Justice for All when I first heard it).

But let me be a typical man and reflect the blame back on my dates, for a moment. I’m scared of 20-minute songs because I do not trust them to stimulate me enough for the full duration of a single listen. Sprinting is hard enough, a Marathon is herculean. Twenty minutes is a long time, most people can’t handle writing a 20-minute long piece of music, and in general I do not recommend that artists undertake the task. Tom G. Warrior is the exception—I do love “The Prolonging” from the Triptykon record — but otherwise I don’t recall a 20-minute long metal song I’ve listened to on repeat.

But Ash Borer’s 20-minute opus “My Curse Was Raised in the Darkness Against a Doomsday Silence” held my undivided attention for its full duration. I listened to it twice in a row. I did not fetch more hot tea; I let that mug get frigid. I had to urinate, badly, but remained seated until the last strains of odd synthesizer at the end ebbed into silence. Until the amp hiss ceased. Continue reading »