Released: 2015, Czar of Crickets Productions
Reviewer: Metal-Rules.com UK Team
Duos have often created magic, especially in the male/female line-up form. Magic is certainly a word to describe Switzerland’s ASHTAR, a Basel based band that have been going since 2012 but whose sole release comes in the shape of this debut LP on June 8th. Recorded in the act’s hometown, yet mixed in Brum, this six tracker sees the hand fasting of doomy sludge and black metal’s esotericism, all with rather intriguing and spellbinding results. The band’s association with psychedelic fellow Swiss band Phased is immediate with the rich and fabulous artwork that comes with this record, but what the songs themselves reveal is much greater.
The exuberantly long title of opening song “Des siècles qui éternellement séparent le corps mortel de mon âme” could serve as a metaphor for this album. It is long winded, mystical, and completely self-absorbed. But the luxurious riffs spoil the listener in a way that makes this approach one that I’m happy to except. The French spoken word feels bewitching, until the despondent howls for vocals make an entrance, creating a rich tapestry which is dramatic and emotional yet follows the hypnotic orthodoxy of doom, best shown by the old school homage that is “She is a Witch”.
The more depressive “Celestial” puts the album at risk of becoming too sedative for some, but the vocative “Moons” sees a peak in energy, with a memorable, mesmerising chorus that demonstrates how with each and every track on this album, there are new emotions evoked. At times the spirit of Norwegian sounding black metal is summoned, with dirty, moody riffing , but this is clouded with a post-metal glaze of minimalist song writing, which sees songs evolve around one riff rather than introduce multiple new ideas, and shows the use of a variety of unconventional instruments in metal, from viola to didgeridoo.
Although there are moments while old vibes are kept very much alive, this duo shows their own ideas and originality here, something they should stick to in order to maintain this LP’s charm in further offerings. This soulful, celestial effort feels long at 47 minutes, yet explores so many airs that a more compressed effort wouldn’t have been able to offer; let’s just hope ASHTAR haven’t played all their best cards at once.
Review by Jarod Lawley