Ashen Horde Antimony
Metal, am I right? It’s the other reason we exist. Lately, a lot of it has blended together in the sense that genre crossover is becoming the norm and those who choose to be genre stalwarts better be bringing their A-game or be left behind by those who are pushing the craft forward. Still, mixing ingredients isn’t a surefire way to a winner if you’re missing a good sauce to bring it all together.
Ashen Horde have a hell of a pedigree - members of Inferi, Equipoise, Abhoria, Norse, and more converge here to bring some death/black metal into 2023’s early ramp up to what is surely going to be a heavy-ass year. Their latest album Antimony works in the sense that the ideas and what’s shown off is solid, but even with strong musicianship and an intriguing concept, it doesn’t soar any higher than their former work for other projects, namely Inferi.
Positives first: there’s some rippers on here! Melody is one of Ashen Horde’s strong suits, and each song gives new opportunities to explore different vocal structures and harmonies. Vocalist Stevie Boiser billed “The Neophyte” as having “Alice In Chains inspired clean harmonies” for instance and what do you know, it handily achieves just that, flanked by intense drumming by Robin Stone and sturdy guitars from Trevor Portz and Igor Panasewicz (bonus for audible bass - usually it’s buried in this style of metal). “The Barrister” channels a similar energy - the mix of clean and harsh singing is charming. The track is a bit slower than others which allows it to bubble up into a more guttural crude toward the end, literally if we’re talking vocals.
What’s also intriguing is the concept of Antimony which dramatizes and metalizes the story of Charles Bravo, a British lawyer who died of excruciating antimony poisoning in 1876. It’s been the topic of many books and television shows not only for its true crime nature, but because of the circumstances that surrounded the situation and Bravo himself. Did his wife who Bravo allegedly abused and was trying to poison have a hand in it? What about his housekeeper who he threatened to fire? Did he accidentally poison himself like a silly goose as one theory hypothesizes? It’s like Clue, but with more riffs.
Song titles even refer to key elements of Bravo’s story. For instance, “The Physician” refers to Sir William Gull, a royal physician who tended to Bravo as he fell ill. It has some of the flashiest guitar work on Antimony, fast and frenetic without losing the enunciation in the solos and leads. It’s the bar by which I ended up measuring much of the rest of the album and, as a result, finding it coming up short.
Critiquing Antimony will always have some hesitation attached because when something comes up that feels lacking, it’s usually followed by something that grabs the attention even for a moment, hence why this review ultimately balances out. Overall, there’s an impenetrable air that makes the album come off as more stale than it should. It’s hard to not feel like you’ve heard these sorts of ideas and sonic executions before, but better (like with ATRÆ BILIS who coincidentally started out on Transcending Obscurity Records). Then again, the concept is rather unique for a metal album, yet still sticks to the thematic tenets that death and black metal proudly bask in. It must be reiterated: the members involved in this band are consummate musicians, uniquely talented in their own rights; the resulting effort just doesn’t feel like the utmost reflection of that fact.
Bottom line: Ashen Horde’s Antimony had everything it needed on paper to be stellar, from contributing musicians to a cool concept. That it is sizably short of that expectation makes it all the more disappointing, but far from meritless. What’s here is good, but that’s about it - a death/black metal album that’s underwrought, a little toothless, and missing key flair that could’ve catapulted it into being a January gem. The substance was mostly there, but a lack of distinct style is what held this album back.
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You're a f*cking idiot