Saturday, August 18, 2012
Ashencult - Black Flame Gnosis 
It’s funny when you lower your expectations of new releases so much that when you hear something that’s actually good, it blows your mind. Ashencult break that scale altogether. A relatively knew band, originating from Philly, PA, they released their debut album Black Flame Gnosis on May 31 of this year. This four-piece black metal band whose members go simply by initials, it’s quite clear, aren’t shy in demonstrating their love for melodic black metal titans Dissection. Not only the similar riffing, but small things like the occasional acoustic intro/outro or even some of the drum fills make this similarity especially evident. Notwithstanding that this style of melodic black metal is by no means original, one would be hard pressed to find a band better imitating it today; and that’s not to say that this album is a complete rip-off, either; no, Ashencult incorporate their own little preferences into their music, be it a black/thrash break or even some punky tendencies here and there.
The most astonishing song on this album is easily “Dark Law/Black Fires of Chaos,” which starts off with an acoustic intro, transitioning into some of the best melodic black metal riffing to be heard in the foreseeable future; and it’s hard not to feel an incredible urge to pound your fists and head over and over once the drums come in to push the song fully forward. There’s no doubt as to the riffs being the best part of this album; they dominate it, flooding songs with sundry and varied (almost perfectly varied, it should be said) sharp black metal riffing, tremolo bursts and black/thrash breaks being thrown left and right. And I reiterate--the variation on this album is perfect. One moment a melodic riff is played, the next you’re pounded on by a groovy black/thrash riff (“A Glorious Elegy” has an especially good one). It keeps things interesting. But the rest of the instruments, including the vocals, are near-equally deserving of strong accolades. The powerful drumming does a lot for the music, the drummer of whom seems to have a strong penchant for striking as powerfully as possible; definitely a pro. And the violent and aggressive vocals shriek and growl in both high and low tones; reminding one, perhaps, of the singer of Bethlehem mixed in with a lot of Dissection, but kicked up a thousand notches. These ear-piercing shrieks are especially apparent in the melodic points of “Plague Revelation.”
This album has so many riffs that it's hard to be sure when one song ends and another one begins. Ashencult by far exceed most of the black metal bands releasing material today. Why those bands are signed and Ashencult aren’t, I will never know. But it’s more than obvious that these black metal fanatics probably won’t ever disappoint with future releases, and in that there’s some comfort to be found. Black Flame Gnosis has just placed itself as my favorite black metal album yet of 2012. No doubt once more people hear of them, they’ll fill the same position for them as well. Who knows what other bands are currently recording in their studios, about to release the next best album of 2012? I lie in wait. But until then, it would be a wise move to keep a close eye out for Ashencult.