Ashen – Ritual of Ash (Review)

Ashen - Ritual of AshThis is the debut album from Australian death metal band Ashen.

Ritual of Ash is a 38-minute monster of a death metal album. Ashen spend their time on this record carving their way through the killing arenas of the style to appear triumphant and covered in blood by the end of it. The album snarls with Swedish death metal groove and roars with USDM intensity. A few other death metal styles can be heard here and there too, making for a collection of tracks that are easy to replay and enjoy.

Ashen have a real talent for writing classic death metal songs, and Ritual of Ash is packed to the hilt with the things. Seriously, if you’re in the market for song-based death metal that knows how to destroy with catchy heaviness, then look no further than this.

Ashen have produced an old-school death metal album that sounds remarkably fresh and exciting. Although Ritual of Ash certainly sounds like it was released in 2023, it has the heart of a much, much older time. There are more modern influences to be heard within their ancient framework though; these add bite to the band’s traditional attack, and allow them to exist in a sweet spot between old and new where they basically sound timeless. Ashen’s classic songwriting is consistent, of a sickeningly high standard, and devilishly moreish.

The songs are made up of crushing guitars and massive, hook-laden riffs. Punishing groove is unleashed by a band that know how to shape their malevolent distortion into very ear-friendly shapes, and faster parts add venomous aggression that burns and blinds. When they’re not brutalising and burning Ashen also firmly demonstrate that they understand how to weave macabre atmosphere. This is frequently subtly used, but always enriches greatly. Also, the use of bass on the album mostly underpins the gory carnage, but occasionally is given the limelight in very striking and effective ways.

Of the vocals, the band’s singer simply has an excellent voice. He reminds me of a cross between the original singer of Decapitated and the vocalist for Amon Amarth when he does his deeper growls. Essentially, the vocals on Ritual of Ash are as impressive as the rest of the music, and I can’t get enough.

It may only be January, but Ashen have thrown down a spiked iron gauntlet for all to see in 2023. Ritual of Ash is a record not to miss.

Pretty damn essential for any fan of death metal. Don’t miss this one.

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