Technically, I could have made this post one of our Heavy Delinquency posts. Not because so long has passed since Ashbringer released their most recent album, Absolution, but because it’s really too damn good to have waited so long to write about it. Regardless of the name of this post, I am here to correct this issue: Absolution is one of the best atmospheric/folk black metal albums I’ve heard out of the US in a while now. Even though the band hail from Minnesota, their sound is best compared to greats from the Pacific Northwest, like Falls of Rauros or Wolves in the Throne Room although the best touch point would be the Canadian Thrawsunblat. In the presence and maturity of the folk instrumentation on the album, Absolution creates the kind of rich, sylvan atmosphere, conjuring forth the musky smell of the forest alongside the band’s black metal fury.
The two minutes which start near the four minute mark on the first, and eponymous, track of the album are what made me initially fall in love with this album. Listen to how deft drums and a moving guitar lead are added to the original acoustic lines, weaving together an enchanting air. Then, note how the heavier riff comes back, bringing the track slowly back towards its opening segments. More than anything, listen to that bass groove and how it augments that riff together with the agile drums. By the time the harsh vocals return, the stage is set for their epicness, the folk, the heavy, and the atmospheric blending together with an expert’s hand to guide them.
The album is just chock full of these moments, where deeply composed, quieter, more atmospheric passages live a full life before the black metal roots of the bands reassert themselves. Like all great bands in the genre, no one side feels looked over or under-appreciated; all aspects of the band are tended to with the some loving grace and skill. This makes Absolution an album with little to none filler, constantly doing something to keep you engaged and entertained. In a genre which often overflows its boundaries and stumbles into “ambient” territory (too often just a by-word for “directionless” or “dull”), Ashbringer curve through the chaff with a hot blade, standing resplendent and powerful at the end.
Just listen to this album, alright? You can purchase it via the band’s Bandcamp above. Don’t forget: that’s the best way to support artists, large and small!