Ashen Horde
Nine Plagues

“Never judge a book by its cover”.

You’d think I would have learned my lesson by now. When I got Nine Plagues in the mail, with a logo that looks like something I would have drawn on my 9th grade English folder, I set my expectation pretty low. However, as it turns out that the master mind behind Ashen Horde, one Trevor Portz, may not be a good graphic artist but he’s a pretty damn good musician and composer.This is his second effort under the Ashen Horde moniker, having served in underground acts Bite Wound and Fetal Hymen, and I have not heard any of them. And what we have here is some very competent progressive black death metal that would please the Behemoth crowd.

With a production that’s top notch, the 52 minute 9 song conceptual effort is an impressive effort from this one man project. It’s got a a black metal backbone, but a more authoritative, commanding death metal guitar tone and presence. The vocals are mid range rasp and the whole affair has a very tight, confident delivery. I get hues of Epoch of Unlight  and even  and other burlier  USBM acts  in some of the militant blackened guitar melodies and there’s also elements of thrash and heavy metal, thought the stated ‘progressive’ elements are pretty none existent. This is pretty straight forward blackened death metal. The only real ‘progressive’ element is that is isn’t a purely tremolo picked frost fest, the songs are pretty long and has some meatier death metal stutter and stagger thrown in.

Regardless, the theme of the albums nine plague concept is carried by the music though there’s no ebb and swell to tell a story in the actual music. The 9 tracks pretty much all deliver solid blackened death metal. It’s aggressive, yet technical but well crafted and with ample twists and turns. 9 minute opener “Desecration of the Sanctuary” is a well placed opening attention getter, setting the tone for the rest of the album. The tracks aren’t so much memorable or replayable, but a part of a larger whole that draws you in. That said, Portz can show you a wide range of moods and influences from a more pure black metal burst (starts of “The Stranger” and “Dissension”), to more patient, angular  almost tech death pace as heard on “Isolation” and another impressive 9 minute track “A Reversal of Misfortune”, which bookends the album rather well.

On the very minor down side, at 52 minutes, the album drags a bit, and I never got a sense of any story from the music. The 9 songs could have been about pig farming and I would have been none the wiser, as there was no emotional connection with any sort of story about a savage invasion of a village and the grim plagues that befall the survivors. But that does not take away from the music and musicianship itself which is top notch which as surprisingly good one man self released effort i did not expect.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by E. Thomas
February 11th, 2016

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