Artist: Ashes Of Life
Album Title: Seasons Within
Label: Abismo Humano
Date of Release: 7 February 2020
It is that magical time again folks, where a band will come out of nowhere to make a massive and lasting impression on me. And, after reading this review, I hope you feel sufficiently moved to check this band out too, hopefully deriving as much pleasure as I do in the process. The band in question is called Ashes Of Life and ‘Seasons Within’ is their debut full-length release.
I’m going to rename 2020 ‘the year of doom’, because it’s just getting silly now. Having said a number of times that I am not a fan of doom metal particularly, I seem to have been inundated with music from this genre since the turn of the year. And much of it has been incredible. It is easily the most impressive genre so far this year in terms of quality, enjoyable output. Admittedly, I still have a hard time fully appreciating ‘classic’, straight-up doom, but when it is blended with other styles, such as death, prog, or dark metal, it is proving hard to resist when done well. And Ashes Of Life are another who do this kind of music very well indeed.
Askes Of Life hail from Lisbon in Portugal, a country that seems to have a penchant for music at the darker end of the spectrum. There’s little information out there about them, but I can confirm that Ashes of Life is a complex set-up. At the core of the band are a trio comprised of multi-instrumentalist Tiago Silva (clean vocals, guitars, bass, programming) alongside extreme vocalist Stefan Nordström (Soliloquium, Desolator) and guitarist Luis Pinto. However, there are several more artists credited as additional composers, including bassist Pedro Silva and drummers Jorge Teles and Pedro Antunez, with others offering their skills as guests within individual songs.
It didn’t take long between taking a listen and deciding to write a review because this is a record that spoke to me from the very beginning. This is doom metal at heart but within the tapestry, they weave further elements into their sound, everything from shoegaze to death metal. But they do it very smoothly. In fact, the adjectives I’d use to describe the music on ‘Seasons Within’ are majestic, elegant, graceful and powerful. There is plenty of heaviness and brutality as you might expect, but it is tempered with atmosphere and lashings of melody, some of which is like an instant hit, whilst others take their time to make their mark. And, having listened to this record a few times on my hectic commute to the UK capital, I can attest to the fact that despite the extreme metal framework in which it sits, ‘Seasons Within’ is also a rather serene and engaging listen. Others may be jostling and hurrying through the public transport networks, but I’m in my own world, enjoying the music of Ashes Of Life.
If there was to be a downside with this album, it’d be two-fold. Firstly, it cannot be described as Earth-shatteringly original; many bands have ploughed this particular furrow over the years. Secondly, at just six songs and a running time of under 45 minutes, it isn’t the longest recording ever. Mind you, there is an argument to spin that says that I enjoy this album more because it isn’t a daunting, impenetrable prospect.
The longest song on the album is the first. And, arguably, it is also the best. Entitled ‘Shores’, it begins with a delicate guitar, bass and synth melody that dovetails with the sounds of ocean waves and of water lapping upon the shore. The heavy riffs that eventually enter are simply marvellous, continuing the central melody with purpose. Tiago Silva’s clean, almost Gothic-like croon is the first voice to be heard, providing yet more elegance to the composition. Blastbeats and a change of riff, to a more straight-forward doom approach also signal the introduction of Stefan Nordström’s deep gravelly vocals. But even then, there’s a beauty to the music that ensures I remain captivated. And it isn’t too long before we’re treated to a reprise of the initial melody that suddenly sounds more captivating than before. It begins with shoegaze delicacy before continuing alongside and within crushing guitars and tortured growls. There’s a word for songs like this: stunning.
The bass work within the relatively short-lived ‘Spiral Down’ is satisfyingly rich and commanding, as is Silva’s clean voice throughout. And the instrumental piece entitled ‘Burn’ is a wonderfully-crafted composition that ends with a touch of black metal speed and intent just to demonstrate that this record does have plenty of bite when needed.
‘Tried To Leave’, meanwhile, has a Long Distance Calling’ feel to it as it is initially dominated by a spoken-word sample, that is extremely deep and thought-provoking. The piano that accompanies these parts is beautiful, juxtaposed as they are by some pretty heavy and aggressive doom riffing and those guttural vocals. It creates an interesting inter-song dichotomy where elegance and extremity collide to great effect.
At this juncture, all that’s really left to do is congratulate Ashes Of Life on an incredibly high quality and professional debut album. I’m certain that with a bit of luck and a following wind, ‘Seasons Within’ could signal a very positive future for these doomy Portuguese songsmiths. On the strength of this album, they definitely deserve it.
The Score of Much Metal: 89%
Check out my reviews from 2020 right here:
Dynazty – The Dark Delight
Sutrah – Aletheia EP
Welicoruss – Siberian Heathen Horde
Myth Of I – Myth Of I
My Dying Bride – The Ghost Of Orion
Infirmum – Walls Of Sorrow
Inno – The Rain Under
Kvaen – The Funeral Pyre
Mindtech – Omnipresence
Dark Fortress – Spectres From The Old World
The Oneira – Injection
Night Crowned – Impius Viam
Dead Serenity – Beginnings EP
The Night Flight Orchestra – Aeromantic
Deadrisen – Deadrisen
Blaze Of Perdition – The Harrowing Of Hearts
Godsticks – Inescapable
Isle Of The Cross – Excelsis
Demons & Wizards – III
Vredehammer – Viperous
H.E.A.T – H.E.A.T II
Psychotic Waltz – The God-Shaped Void
Into The Open – Destination Eternity
Lunarsea – Earthling/Terrestre
Pure Wrath – The Forlorn Soldier EP
Sylosis – Cycle of Suffering
Sepultura – Quadra
Dyscordia – Delete / Rewrite
Godthrymm – Reflections
On Thorns I Lay – Threnos
God Dethroned – Illuminati
Fragment Soul – A Soul Inhabiting Two Bodies
Mariana Semkina – Sleepwalking
Mini Album Reviews: Moloken, The Driftwood Sign & Midnight
Serenity – The Last Knight
Ihsahn – Telemark EP
Temperance – Viridian
Blasphemer – The Sixth Hour
Deathwhite – Grave Image
Marko Hietala – Pyre Of The Black Heart
SWMM – Trail Of The Fallen
Into Pandemonium – Darkest Rise EP
Bonded – Rest In Violence
Serious Black – Suite 226
Darktribe – Voici L’Homme
Brothers Of Metal – Emblas Saga
A Life Divided – Echoes
Thoughts Factory – Elements
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: