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Ashen - Ritual of Ash Award winner

Ritual of Ash
by Leanne "Metal Maiden" Evans at 08 November 2022, 6:27 PM

A little over a year ago, I had the privilege of reviewing Western-Australian OSDM aficionados, ASHEN, and near-on creamed my knickers over their debut EP, “Godless Oath”, even citing, “it’ll get you wetter than an otter’s pocket”. These guys brutalised my ears enough to create some serious waves in my grots and had me falling for them hard and fast, their infectious and contemporary take on old school-style death metal - perfectly executed with a blend of gnarly grooves, frenzied riffs and frenetic tempos - hypnotised me into giving them almost full-marks across the board in my review of their debut.

A lot can happen in twelve months, and ASHEN have been very busy boys indeed! Not only have the lads gigged relentlessly - recently supporting SKELETAL REMAINS on their Australian and New Zealand tour – the guys have worked their Aussie nuts off to create another blinding chapter in the ASHEN legacy, their album “Ritual of Ash”. The band’s highly-anticipated sophomore release - through the ever-wonderful BITTER LOSS RECORDS (a thoroughly dependable lot for providing quality metallic filth) – promises to annihilate as much, if not more, than ASHEN’s debut. With an almighty (and sold-out on physical format) EP already under its belt, ASHEN has big boots to fill with the album, so it’s no surprise that the band has constructed ten unwavering tracks of unfettered, unadulterated death metal. But does this release transcend its predecessor, and will it surpass my high (and sodden) expectations?

The strongest aspect that hits you throughout listening to “Ritual of Ash” are the diverse influences that pour over the tracks. From Swedeath, American death, to a splash of death ‘n’ roll and even a smidgen of death doom, the album forges a bounty of all-encompassing death metal brilliance, providing the ultimate OSDM experience to relish. The intro track, and first single to be released, “Ritual”, beckons a CARCASS style nod mixed with traditional OSDM, whilst the likes of “Harbinger” and “Threshold” opt for groovier offerings in the vein of BLOODBATH and ENTOMBED and stick to you like congealed blood. What’s also striking about “Ritual of Ash” are the intriguing – and sometimes starkly contrasted - intros the band use to lay atmospheric foundations to each track: “Harbinger” carries a luring, steady opening riff that injects melody, yet the cut punches into a weighty beast on the doomier end of the spectrum, whereas “Embrace Extinction” goes straight for the jugular from the outset with a dissonant riff that undulates amongst bulldozing old-school death musicianship.

“Ritual of Ash” sets forth an altar of bruising and perniciously executed death metal, scowling and sneering its way through each track. Take “Deadsight”, pounding violently with its glut of MASSACRE-feeling influence, or “Blood” with its percussive-heavy creep and deep growling vocals coupled with unnerving commentary. The tracks are driven by throbbing rhythm sections and pulsating riffs, making them burst open like festering, gaping sores – with particularly spectacular solo focus on the bass in parts – additionally with the delight of Peter Tägtgren sounding vocals that richly earworm throughout; “Buried in Ice” in particular wouldn’t be out of place on “Nightmares Made Flesh”. Yes, these guys are bloody good!

“Ritual of Ash” is a crushingly ineffable album that punishes in magnitude, balancing equal parts of nostalgic OSDM and contemporary death metal soundscapes, finished in production that brings enough crispness to appreciate the polished artistry, with a subtlety of ruggedness to anchor the album’s malignance perfectly. There’s no question that ASHEN has managed to outdo “Godless Oath” in spades – which is no mean feat – and “Ritual of Ash” will start off 2023’s underground releases with uncompromising strength, and will most probably land on a few AOTY lists. Straight up, whack this on your “to buy” list without hesitation and pack your waterproofs; it’s gonna get wet!

ASHEN’s second single, “Gravemind”, from “Ritual of Ash” will be released on Friday 11th November, and the album will be released on January 13th 2023. Pre-orders for vinyl are currently available via Bitter Loss Records.

Songwriting:   10
Musicianship:  10
Memorability:  10
Production:     10

5 Star Rating

1. Ritual
2. Deadsight
3. Harbinger
4. Threshold
5. Blood
6. Cursed Rebirth
7. Embrace Extinction
8. Gravemind
9. Buried in Ice
10. Inhuman
Richard Clements – Vocals
Shannon Over – Guitars
Josh Harris – Bass
Ben Mazzarol – Drums
Record Label: Bitter Loss Records


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