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Ashenspire – Hostile Architecture

Hostile Architecture
by Dave "That Metal Guy" Campbell at 27 May 2022, 3:23 PM

The album is “a sonic exploration of the ways that subjects under late capitalism are constrained and set in motion via the various structures that uphold stratification and oppression in urban contexts. It is inspired by brutalist, postmodern and utilitarian architectural structures that are found throughout post-industrial cities, haunting in nature, being designed to provide for the populace through affordable housing but ultimately cost-cutting exercises and unfit for purpose. The term hostile architecture refers to design elements in social spaces that deter the public from using the object for means unintended by the designer, e.g. anti-homeless spikes, which the album presents as emblematic of a foundational contempt for the poor and working class, an exemplification of a status quo fortified in concrete.” It contains eight tracks.

“The Law of Asbestos” opens the album. Solemn saxophone notes can be heard in the beginning, with a crunch of drums and guitars, that represent the cold nature inherent to capitalism. The vocals are mostly spoken, and with anger. The music progresses to a combination of dissonant notes and smooth saxophone. The contradiction here is marked. “Béton Brut” begins with a rumble and then an explosion of sound. The vocals continue in a story-telling mode, almost as if the subject is in a stream of consciousness and just lashing out at anyone who will listen. “Plattenbau Persephone Praxis” opens with more dissonant tones before the instrumentation comes in hard, heavy, and just a bit reckless. The hard tones drop for a bit as trusted people scheme behind the scenes. It picks back up with more anger and hatred. Saxophone notes come back towards the end, in an odd twist of bitterness.

“How the Mighty Have Vision” is a short, under-three minutes of choir singing. The vocalist re-enters, mirroring the backing vocals, or perhaps taking the lead while the backing choir follows. “Tragic Heroin” is another short song that reflects the struggles and hardships of addicts in our society. Rather than treating it from a disease model society looks down on addicts and often they can’t get the help they need. “Apathy as Arsenic Lethargy as Lead” again features that eerie combination of smooth saxophone notes with ominous and dark guitar sections. The vocal style is also just a bit unconventional…it could be the ramblings of a madman, or the conclusions of a genius who is able to see things that others can’t…the listener can make up their mind on this.

“Palimpsest” is a shorter piece with mellower tones. The word means “a manuscript or piece of writing material on which the original writing has been effaced to make room for later writing but of which traces remain.” It probably speaks to the mistrust of the average citizen living under a capitalist society. “Cable Street Again” closes the album. “This is where it starts,” the vocalist announces. The anger is amplified in the beginning of the song. The tones mellow again to suggest that people can become complacent pretty easily, and live with the things that they are spoon fed, but grow again in anger. The entire song will leave the listener disenfranchised with what they have come to know about their life.

This album was not at all pleasing, and that is the intention. The sub stories will instead teach you to begin to question the institutional structures that your life is interwoven with, and as you peer into the abyss more often, you will not like what you see. The story telling on the album was integral, and significant. The references to the inherent problems with capitalism were easy enough to follow. The music, however, was a tougher pill to swallow. The band has talent, energy, and drive, but the music was hard to follow at times. At best, it is one of the most vital albums you will hear in the genre of Metal this year. At worst, it is an album that will take the listener several times to really understand, and the music becomes secondary to the message.

Songwriting: 7
Musicianship: 8
Memorability: 6
Production: 7

3 Star Rating

1. The Law of Asbestos
2. Béton Brut
3. Plattenbau Persephone Praxis
4. How the Mighty Have Vision
5. Tragic Heroin
6. Apathy as Arsenic Lethargy as Lead
7. Palimpsest
8. Cable Street Again
Alasdair Dunn – Vocals, Drums
Fraser Gordon – Guitars, Vocals
Ben Brown – Bass
James Johnson - Violin, Vocals
Matthew Johnson – Saxophone, Vocals
Scott McLean – Rhodes, Prepared Piano
Rylan Gleave – Vocals
Amaya López-Carromero – Vocals
Otrebor – Hammered Dulcimer
Record Label: Aural Music


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