The Spread of Ashes
In my mind there have always been two distinct flavors of USBM. On the one side you have the crust-influenced madness of Woe, Ludicra, and Nachtmystium. Those who wear their love of punk on their sleeves and have a flair for experimentation. The other camp is more mystical. The double-digit songs and hypnotic repetition that was born with Weakling proved to be immensely popular and lives on through the likes of Wolves in the Throne Room, Krallice, and Yellow Eyes. Of these, I’ve always considered Ash Borer the best. While they have sprinklings of the former group, their epic dirges place them more squarely in the second of these made-up camps. I’ve somehow managed to see them more times than I can count, and their incredible performances only solidified their place in my mind as USBM’s torchbearers.
And while it’s been far too long since their last release, the individual members have been far from silent. 2015 has seen an eruption of side projects churning out incredible music that is easily traced back to their core sound. The following were all released in the past few months and contain at least one Ash Borer member.
The highest profile name on this list, Vanum recently released their debut on Profound Lore. It’s a shock they haven’t garnered more attention, as the band is clearly of the highest quality and very much aligned with the rest of the label’s roster. Very similar to Ash Borer, Vanum play a slightly-atmospheric form of black metal; albeit with more polish and a couple minutes trimmed from the song lengths. Nods to post-rock seep through occasionally, with songs varying as they still stay rooted. This is a shining continuation of a sound the members helped create.
Possibly the best extreme metal band that has ever come out of Seattle, Anhedonist’s brand of meloncholic death/doom was a revelation, so it was a major blow to our local scene when they called it quits. So when their former bassist joined forces with Ash Borer’s Kyle Morgan, it was an exciting announcement. And their union sounds uncannily like the two bands fused together. The dreary, heavy assault has a clear sheen of black metal mixed in that should appeal to fans of all things murky and punishing. Their recent split with Vorde, who in turn play longform black metal with a touch of psychedelia, is a fantastic collaboration.
Focusing on the more intense side of Ash Borer’s influence, Uškumgallu go right for the throat with their more simplistic attack. A punk flavor occasionally erupts for a brief period or two, a great complement to the bleak nature of their sound. The production on this demo is murky at best, but it’s clear that was intention.
With the same two members as Uškumgallu, Serum Dreg sees them switching duties slightly for a wholly different sound. Ethereal yet intense, they take on a death metal structure while playing an interesting form of black metal that’s clearly influenced by sludge and crust. What sound like interesting guitar riffs are hidden beneath overpowering bass and and reverbed vocals, but at least they’re taking risks with their mix—a rarity in this type of music.
The overwhelming number of projects emerging from the Ash Borer camp shows the members at the height of their creative output. I can’t wait to see that energy captured together when the band works as one again.