Ashbringer hails from Minnesota. The project arose in 2013, featuring Nick Stanger on all instruments and vocals. The music he wrote and recorded can easily be named 'Cascadian Black Metal', influenced by most of the bands I named in the previous paragraph, along with some European bands like Darkthrone and Alcest. The result is an excellent album with a lot of variation, both in music and in vocals, and a dark, eerie atmosphere of solitude, desperation and fear.
The album opens with 'Ethereal Aura pt.I', a dark folk song which mainly functions as an intro. However, this dark folk style often returns for short passages, using clean vocals and acoustic guitars. Other elements, like dark ambient also appear once in a while. 'Lonesome' is a dark breather which functions as an into for the epic closer 'Bitter'. About 'Lonesome', this song uses some of the best percussion on this album, making this actually one of my favourite pieces on this album. This is in no way a black metal song but it remains awesome.
Alternating with these calm, almost soothing sounds, are of course the epic blasts of fierce black metal. These are simply brilliant, not extremely complex but very enjoyable and well-varied. Blast beats aren't the main function of the drums, they only appear for short periods of time. Somehow Ashbringer doesn't really need blast beats to show how intense and destructive his music can be. 'Ethereal Aura pt.II' for example opens very slow, like blackened doom, influenced by post-rock/metal. The haunted screams that make this genre unique are also very present and add a lot to the eerie atmosphere.
My favourite black metal anthem on this album is 'With Vacant Eyes', a song that issues a melody that somehow got stuck in my head. This too is partially influenced by post-rock or at least incorporates similar elaborate passages with a tremendous sense of magnificence and grandeur. The blast beats in this one are also quite short but insanely intense, almost grotesque. 'Bitter', like actually all of the songs, is yet another piece of epic atmospheric black metal, honouring both the Scandinavian and the American traditions of the genre.
Somehow I think Ashbringer must have had a lot of experience playing in different bands before starting this project. The songwriting is so meticulous and the level of musical craftsmanship is so high that I can't really believe that 'Vacant' is his first step in the world of extreme music. Fact remains that this is a fantastic album, truly showing the instrumental abilities of this one-man project. For live performances he found some musicians to take over some of these duties on stage and I surely hope he takes this show on the road through Europe. I want to see this live...