Holy crap. This is not your standard album, not at all. It’s striking, individual, shockingly emotive, and relentlessly harsh in atmosphere and tone. To set the scene somewhat – Ashenspire play a form of post-black metal with strong avant-garde, experimental, and progressive tendencies. Featuring current and ex-members of Barshasketh and Falloch, Hostile Architecture is a 44-minute journey into the contemporary urban heart of darkness.
The band’s dynamic songwriting sees a variety of different creative ideas across the album. This is not your typical cookie cutter music. The songs are visceral, challenging, and atypical in the extreme. Occasionally while listening to this elements of bands such as Oranssi Pazuzu, White Ward, Akercocke, Amenra, Imperial Triumphant, Ephel Duath, Corpo-Mente, Mayhem, and King Crimson spring to mind, so that should give you at least a vague idea of the sort of landscape that Ashenspire inhabit.
This is music with a molten core of anger. Ashenspire are not happy, and the music strongly reflects this dissatisfaction at the current state of modern civilisation. The songs are frequently angular and sharp, festooned with barbed hooks and dressed with utilitarian spikes. Amidst the harsh veneer sit moments of ethereal beauty or haunting calm, but it’s never long before the ugliness and grim austerity of reality drags everything down into pain and anguish once more. Ashenspire have a harsh dissonant streak that’s brutal in application and merciless in hungry desire.
The band’s progressive side allows them the freedom to explore a range of textures and sounds. With intricate skill and raging passion the songs are unleashed, sometimes with controlled multicoloured restraint, and at other times with pure red fury. Ashenspire’s avant-garde aspects manifest as warped jazz workouts and highlights that exist both embedded in and separate from the rest of the music. One can’t exist without the other, but they’re also their own creation in their own right. Violin is used well to add slashes of raw, unsullied emotion, brightening the dark corruption of the oppressive auras with hope and light.
The vocalist is talented and doesn’t really sing too much, but rather delivers what is essentially a form of diatribe-driven performance art of such an impressive level that it can be captivating. The political messages that are spewed forth are honest and impassioned, and the level of vitriol reached is impressive. The performance here is so good that not even the spoken word parts put me off – I can think of no higher praise than that.
This is powerful music with a unique voice. It’s hideously impressive, and viciously potent. I don’t think describing it as a niche modern masterpiece would be too much hyperbole either; it won’t have broad appeal at all, but to a small subset of people that appreciate demanding and stimulating music, this is an essential listen.