Another gem of a find for 2016
2016 has been a year full of incredible finds that were mostly just happy accidents. Ashbringer was a band I had stumbled across during my exploration of the myriad acts that populate Bandcamp's black metal and atmospheric black metal tags. "Yugen", the band's second album, was my first introduction to them. With "Yugen", Ashbringer takes the best of atmospheric black metal and intersperses moments of traditional black metal and moments of calm and serenity into each song. From start to finish, this album had me enthralled and firmly under its spell.
Opening track "Solace" starts out with this really beautiful introduction that gives way to a buzzing swarm of a black metal riff. Vocalist Nick Stanger delivers classic black metal vocals over this riff and the rest of the band really tie things together with a solid rhythmic effort. Then things slow down a little before a riff that is forever stuck in my head begins at the 6:54 mark. The melodic quality of this riff is haunting and captivating. The song returns to its swarming riff before wrapping up in a gentle fade out.
As the album continues on Stanger and second guitarist Robert Northrup's fretwork shines through brightly. Nathan Wallestad's bass, Ian Sutherland's percussion and Cormac Piper's key work makes every track a feast for the senses. The music on "Yugen" is some of the best that I've heard in 2016 and with tracks that average about 6 minutes plus in length, they do a wonderful job seamlessly blending everything together and really making each song feel like an auditory journey. Stanger's vocals as well as the vocals of guest singer Elizabeth Redding on the title track are expressive, depressive and perfectly crafted for each track. The production quality is fantastic, allowing each instrument to be heard in the final mix and with the vocals shining exactly how they should. The depth the band show with their songwriting, uniqueness and musicality are all qualities that will keep this band around for a long time.
"Yugen" is easily a contender for album of the year. In a year where there has been so much quality metal released, it stands on its own for its diversity and splendid execution. I was so enamored with this that I also purchased the band's previous album, "Vacant" and was just as impressed with it was I was "Yugen". Bandcamp is a rabbit hole site; you find yourself exploring every nook and cranny on there and then realize that you've lost hours. That exploration is most rewarding in instances such as this one. Having found this band is a huge highlight of the year for me and I anxiously await the next output from Ashbringer. So go visit their Bandcamp page, sample some of the offerings they have and prepare to get swept away by something truly incredible.