Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Ahamkara - 'The Embers Of The Stars' Review

After self-releasing their debut album 'The Embers Of The Stars' back in 2014, Newcastle based atmospheric black metal duo Ahamkara garnered the attention of Bindrune Recordings and are receiving a re-release via Bindrune in North America and Nordvis Production in Europe.

If I'm reviewing a debut album, or an album from a band I'm unfamiliar with, I'll usually scour the internet searching for any and all information I can gather about said band, as well as listening to the album enough times that my unborn children know the time signature. This, of course, is done with the reader and the band in mind, and to provide as informative a review as I possibly can. This process often involves me reading other peoples reviews and, in an age where any fuck with at least one working hand and a laptop with an internet connection can write reviews on anything that crosses their field of vision; there are some fairly uninformed opinions out there. Not that I'm saying that people aren't entitled to their opinions and it's massively hypocritical of me to complain about bad reviews, since mine are hardly setting the music journalism world ablaze but complaining that there are no death metal growls in a black metal album is like complaining that the chef hasn't spit into your cheeseburger.

Complaints about reviews that nearly make me snap my laptop in half in rage aside, onto the music. This is an incredibly impressive album considering it's a debut but when you look at the minds behind the music it's clear to see why. Although vocalist Steve Black is an unknown quantity, in that I couldn't find any information on previous bands etc; the man behind the music Michael Blenkarn has been in numerous bands but most notably he's a member of fellow atmospheric black metallers Wodensthrone.

The four tracks on display here are immersive and contemplative, with the mix being one of the highlights. It's light and airy with plenty of breathing space allowing for some fantastic dynamic range. When the pace slows down, bringing into focus some atmospheric effects, synths and clean guitars; it can be beautiful and uplifting then when the pace picks back up it's reminiscent of 90s black metal bands like early Ulver et al. Steve Blacks shrieking vocals seem to be lower in the mix than more traditional black metal albums, giving the instrumentation time to shine.

With four tracks, each over the ten minute mark, choosing a standout track would be like picking my favourite quarter of the album and honestly, each track is as excellent as the previous. The ambient sound effects work exceptionally well, particularly the water effects in 'On The Shores of Defeat' and closer 'To Invoke The Stars Themselves'. The album is replete with Wolves in the Throne Room style atmospherics and the heavier sections remind me of Emperor, particularly when the synth kicks in.

So, if you've ever enjoyed a Fen or Wodensthrone album then this is something you should definitely check out. According to the Nordvis Bandcamp page "Perhaps it is arrogant to make the statement that there are very few bands in the black metal realm striving to make music like this anymore, but this is a blatant truth". I, unfortunately, have to disagree with you there Nordvis, I think there are plenty of bands making this type of music but there are very few that do it as well as Ahamkara.

Fuel Rock Club

Fuel Rock Club
Cardiff's Only Dedicated Rock & Metal Bar and Club