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Ashbringer – Vacant

by H.P. Buttcraft at 21 May 2015, 12:48 AM

Vacant” is the first full-length release from Minnesota-based atmospheric black metal one-man band ASHBRINGER. ASHBRINGER’s only other release was a single from 2014, “The Bitter Taste of Life’s Only Certainty”. The band’s only member, Nick Stanger, has only just recently turned 18 years old and despite his age, the music sounds quite mature and thorough.

There are a lot of unorthodox moments on “Vacant” that make it a unique and versatile listening experience. The song “Ethereal Aura Pt. II” has some thick and groovy but melancholic bass guitar and some uplifting synthesizers. The song structure and its emphasis on sadness and haziness are reminiscent of music you would hear from a shoegaze rock band like MY BLOODY VALENTINE.

The track “Lucid” is a black metal song that is as straight as and arrow. It comes out at you with unrelenting force. After the first minute of this berserk thrashing, each layer of the instrumentalization starts to bleed into each other before this harmony is broken up by the vocals that sound as though Stanger’s vocal chords are being ripped apart.
Every song seems to be painted by the numbers. If WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM and ULVER have written the coloring book, ASHBRINGER would be the kid who colors everything in perfectly and then goes back in over his work to add shade and dimension with a set of colored pencils. So you know that ASHBRINGER is talented but is also very particular about how things are arranged and justified to one another.

I got the impression that Nick Stanger, as a musician, is a purest and even if this music is pitch black and sounds intentionally ugly, there is a pristine quality to how he makes everything fit together. This musical retentiveness can only be described in one word: genius.

But what may be a big turn off about this album is Stanger’s clean vocal performance. I cannot take too much credit away as ASHBRINGER’s voice is beyond criticism because of how true the music Stanger creates is extreme, which is an expression of his individual personality and his beliefs in fate and nature and humanity. And if you’re a fan of BATHORY, you know what its like to enjoy metal with clean vocals that aren’t necessarily refined but still earnest and strong. I still think they don’t sound good. The screams were vicious and it sounded like his throat was being torn apart, which I loved.

I am giving “Vacant” a pass, thumbs up, four out of five, eight out of ten, great job, whatever you want to call is. I think the music is certainly moody and dark. I really liked the cold, tubular sounds of the guitars and the drums were and although I thought vocals could’ve been a lot stronger, they didn’t drag the whole album down.

4 Star Rating

1. Ethereal Aura Pt, I
2. Etereal Aura Pt. II
3. Lucid
4. With Vacant Eyes
5. Lonesome
6. Bitter
Nick Stanger – All instruments, Vocals
Record Label: Avantgarde Music


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