by Derric Miller
– Managing Editor —
For some reason—OK, many good ones—Black Metal bands seem to write about “winter.” And not a Frosty the Snowman type winter, but an “everything is dead and bleak” Samhain sort of winter. New band Ashen Horde nods at those classic stereotypes on the opening track and closing track, but the rest of the album is a bit of a new spin on what you’d expect from a Black Metal band … in a good way.
“Midwinter’s Lust” has the elements you’d expect from Black Metal, and the frenzied riffs and manic vocals boil the blood. And while the band is one man, Trevor Portz, the fact he pulls off something that seamlessly sounds like a full unit will impress anyone. He’s also the lyricist, and Sanguinum Vindicta offers a narrative thread that you’ll have to follow the lyrics to understand. (The title translates into “bloody vengeance” so there’s a good hint for you …)
“Baited Breath” owns one of the coolest riffs you’ll ever hear on a Black Metal composition. In fact, it’s so good, you’ll hear almost the exact chord progression later on the track “Trail of Blood.” By now, the female antagonist has morphed from an earthly goddess into a monster filled with self-loathing, and at the end of the song, the question she faces is “to die a self-inflicted martyr or live a life of failed revenge.” The chunky riffing, followed by musical passages of searing speed, circle back to that riff to end the best song on the album.
Portz has a bit of a sense of humor, even on a Black Metal release, and “Mind Over Slaughter” is one way he shows it. That’s just the title, though. This is one of the most brutal compositions on the release, and he matches the violent music with lyrics like “She touches her victim, seemingly lifeless, with every systole she salivates … a single taste of withered flesh, a surge of power in every cell.” Like Cannibal Corpse, Ashen Horde isn’t afraid to give biology lessons lyrically.
Things get otherworldly on “The Burden of Sorrow,” and more so on “Trail of Blood,” with passages like “hidden deep under shredded victims … she sees the marching horrors, an army dead, but living on,” and “as darkness slams the moonlight, shaded by a thousand leather wings.” The antagonist, who goes back and forth between wanting to die or wanting to destroy the entire world had her decision made for her.
When you get to “The Gauntlet,” again, this movie is painted with painful lyrics and a bludgeoning soundtrack, the main character decides to turn savior again and control the abomination she released upon the world. It all ends full circle on the throbbing, bleak “Midwinter’s Loss,” and how do you think Black Metal stories will end?
Sanguinum Vindicta is an impressive semi-debut from Ashen Horde. (The band put out an EP earlier.) Longtime fans of Black Metal may wonder where the hell this band has been, because in any genre, things can become formulaic, while Ashen Horde certainly isn’t. Even from a production standpoint, everything shines although you may not want to see the landscape Portz has painted in entrails, corpses and congealed blood for you. On that note, if you are a fan of this type of extreme music, especially one with a story to tell, Sanguinum Vindicta should be your jam. It is also unique enough to entice those who veer away from the extreme sounds of Black Metal too.
Genre: Black Metal
Trevor Portz — Everything on the album is just Trevor
Smoke and Shadows
Mind Over Slaughter
The Burden of Sorrow
Trail of Blood
Label: Mandol Records
Hardrock Haven rating: 8/10