Ashen Horde – Nine Plagues (Self-Released)

Tuesday, 15th December 2015
Rating: 8/10

It’s not often that you find a band that really sets themselves apart from the rest so soon in their career. One listen to Ashen Horde and it’s clear that the one-man band has channeled influences from a variety of different sources to create something that carves out its own niche. Described as “blackened horror metal,” the band’s second full-length, Nine Plagues, is one for extreme metal fans to seek out.

Going the concept album route, Nine Plagues follows a group of people from an isolated village who are attacked by invaders. Each track is a plague that befalls the group thereafter. With a suitably grim concept, don’t expect the music to be pretty. This is a brutal combination of death, black, grind, thrash, and progressive metal that suitably augments this tale. But anyone can toss influences together, so what separates Ashen Horde is that music doesn’t always go the easy route. You can take a track and move it through some slower grooves and lumbering riffs (“Famine’s Feast”) and follow it up with a blast-intensive thrash frenzy that hits a Strapping Young Lad-like wall of sound, but in a more extreme metal setting (“The Stranger”). Then there are other songs, like “Atra Mors,” which up the technical riffing factor and sneak in some sinister and eerie sounding melodies into the mix. So whether you want something darkly melody or an explosion of aggression, you are bound to find it somewhere along the course of Nine Plagues. And despite the palette range, there’s a strong coherence from track to track, so it never skips a beat.

No matter your flavor of the extreme metal underground, Ashen Horde is bound to draw your attention and hold it at some point along the way. An accomplished sophomore effort that introduces melodies without watering down the grim and cold atmosphere, Nine Plagues shows some great potential of how to properly draw out your influences without sounding like an imitation.

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