So far this year there have only been a few albums that really excited me and made me eager to put fingers to keyboard. I know for a fact that there are a number of albums on the horizon that I am greatly anticipating, but for the moment things are kind of quiet. It is during these quiet times that my obsession to find new music makes me work a little harder to discover something interesting. I spend more time rifling through magazine ads and looking at other review sites. I pore over the promo requests in my email box. Eventually I stumble upon something that makes the search worthwhile. May I introduce you to Ashen Horde.
Ashen Horde is a one-man progressive black metal band hailing from one of the most un-black metal places in the U.S: Hollywood, California. I don’t normally look to the land of sunshine and movie stars for a dose of frozen malevolence (though Lightning Swords of Death are from L.A.) so when I first heard about Ashen Horde’s debut album, “Sanguinum Vindicta”, I must admit I was not expecting much.
When I pore over promo albums or listen to prospective review bands online, I tend to do so while multitasking with something else; rarely do I have the luxury to just sit and listen to music. So when I started listening to “Sanguinum Vindicta” I wasn’t really giving it my full attention. I often find myself listening to half an album that I dislike simply because I’m occupied doing something else and tune it out. At some point I will cringe and realize it is time to switch to something better. In this case, however, I got several tracks in when I realized, hey, I don’t hate this.
While I wasn’t initially paying close attention to the songs, something about the quality was registering with me subconsciously, and when I finally turned my full attention back to the album, I realized I needed to go back to the beginning and start over. It didn’t take long to confirm my suspicion: Ashen Horde kills!
Despite the fact that this is 2014, many black metal bands still feel compelled to make albums that sound thin and, well, shitty. Come on people, Euronymous has been dead for over twenty years; it is ok for black metal to grow up in the production department. Not everyone takes the old path, though, and some of those bands earn themselves the label of progressive black metal. Vreid is one of my favorites in the style. Ashen Horde seems to have joined the ranks of contemporary black metal visionaries that believe black metal can thrive with a solid production.
The sound quality on “Sanguinum Vindicta” is quite good. There is none of the over-reverbed “atmosphere” that mediocre bands use to cover up their inadequacies. The musicianship displayed on this album also elevates it above much of its competition. The fact that Ashen Horde is the product of one man, Trevor Portz, leaves me even more impressed.
“Sanguinum Vindicta” proves that you can play dark, evil sounding metal without giving up skill and clarity. The more I listen to the album, the more I like it. This is a debut album; I can’t wait to hear what albums two and three will sound like. The legions of metal should take note of Ashen Horde. Tune in below to hear the track “Smoke and Shadows.”