First, add a part of Wilderun. Then take a measure of Caladan Brood, mix in a trifle of Summoning. Next, forget about the drum machine of the latter two and replace their ever-present synthesizer with a real band.
Not that the sophomore album Yügen from Ashbringer is devoid of synthesized elements, far from it. But compared to the high-powered art of blackened electronica of some Black Metal acts, this is music made by real people – if you get my drift. The fact that the band members are mostly still in their late teens is just another jaw-dropping fact. Just look at the very mature and professional approach they take to music.
Nick Stanger remains the mastermind behind all these shenanigans and lyrics present on Yügen. Yet, the band changed from a one-man-do-it-all on their first album Vacant to a full band for this record. And this shines positively in more ways than one.
In fact, you’ll get a much more mature style and approach to their tune this time. I like the way the band swiftly switches from some airy parts seemingly originating from some long-gone Pink Floyd-ish stance to Black Metal. One could also say that this is how the latter would sound, had they found their way onto blackened territory.
Yügen pretty much feels lik a projection of a landscape painted by sound. And on that’s eerily similar in texture than parts of Sojourner. Without the flutes, I give them that. But then, they try so hard to be Pink Floyd with corpse paint, it won’t really matter.
And I am grateful they did not opt for one of those atrocious intros. The record starts straight with Solace, a dreamy, somewhat laid backtrack of some 10+ minutes. The acoustic guitar break in the middle – even if of dismal quality – renders this track very alluring. The way they follow this up with some neat riffing later really took us by storm.
Their forte is indeed this ability to project this airy touch that often wanders on Post Black territory. This is what separates them from the mean crowd of Atmospheric Black Metal artists at large. And dare I say it? Their ambient material – or forays into electronica – constantly reminded me of the early work of one Mike Oldfield. And artist totally unrelated to this blackened art, of course.
Now, one of the best, if not THE best track on Yügen is Oceans Apart. It really goes full-tilt Atmospheric Black Metal with benefits. And its sudden blackened attacks of razor-sharp metal are just irresistible to this crew here. All of that goodness delivers with a pretty astonishing flow rich in melodic elements.
A female guest singer – Elizabeth Redding – appears on the title track Yügen. And that means more salsa to an already spicy track. The aforementioned similarity of some elements of Wilderun always strikes me anew in this track. And this tendency again confirms itself in the two last tracks Omen and Glowing Embers, Dying Fires.
And there is really nothing amiss on this record?
As always, some stuff fell into the mud. For instance, the male chanting on various parts of the album will either make you cry in despair or reduce you to a helpless pudding of mirth. We already had trouble with the droning on Caladan Broods piece, but the folks from Ashbringer may need a few lessons. Or find a choir that works for them. Just sayin’.
And – alas – the RMR deck crew has some beef with the drumming, too. The stick-wielding on Yügen sounds like something that got lost in translation somewhere. And it’s the ever-present cymbals that freely murder the clicky drum work, but not much else. Not sure where this one went wrong that much. The drums are generally way too present and have an annoying tendency to drown out the rest. Better mastering might have helped, but I don’t think it would have fixed the issue.
Now, does this turn Yügen into a bad album? No, absolutely not.
I am impressed by the musical prowess, the ability to project Atmospheric Black Metal onto the unsuspecting listener with the promise of vast open lands lurking somewhere behind yonder mists. And this – for sure – got my attention real quick. This is one of these rare records able to connect at an almost subconscious level.
And this is where Ashbringer‘s strength lies.
Ed’s note: This review replaces the edition of June 2016. Oh, and also check the Intermittent Digest IV.
Get dat tune: