Not much has been heard from Cascadian black metal lately. Largely dominated by Wolves In The Throne Room and Agalloch, this niche subgenre has suffered somewhat from Agalloch’s recent breakup and from Wolves In The Throne Room’s relative inactivity of late (their last full-length, 2014’s Celestite, was a dark ambient album that was a departure from their usual output). Although the genre is not necessarily confined to the Pacific Northwest, there haven’t been many bands that seem to be ready to step into what are ultimately large shoes to fill.
That may change with Ash Borer, a quartet originally from Arcata in northern California. Ash Borer made a huge splash with Cold Of Ages in 2012, their second full-length. A stopgap EP, Bloodlands, quickly followed in 2013, but The Irrespassable Gate is the first release from Ash Borer since.
Released on Profound Lore Records, The Irrespassable Gate picks up where previous releases left off with six songs of atmospheric black metal. The production is rather thin, the growled/rasped vocals are muted, and the music is a dissonant whirlwind of riffs and blastbeats with plenty of downshifts to mid-paced and slower tempos.
Ash Borer incorporate a great deal of variety into their approach. Softer interludes are interspersed within the faster moments, enhancing the atmosphere, a hallmark of the subgenre. Notably, a few songs slow down the pace considerably and add a few off kilter moments of guitars and vocals that seem to be influenced by bands such as Blut Aus Nord more than anything else. Case in point is “Lacerated Spirit,” the second song on the album, and an atmospheric standout..
Ash Borer have delivered a solid album that demonstrates that Cascadian black metal is still alive and well. Ash Borer are also about ready to embark on a short tour of the west coast just after the new year to support the release of The Irrespassable Gate. I plan to attend.
(released December 2, 2016 on Profound Lore Records)