Friday, July 27, 2012

The Ash Eaters: Ibn Ghazi (2012)

13 Minutes of Hypnosis

As metalheads, we have long been accustomed to the idea that music should primarily come in full-length album form. But it hasn't always been this way. In some circles, especially those of the DIY ethos, the EP and the single are still paramount. The touted advantages are the reduction of filler, and the opportunity to explore many different ideas across smaller releases. Ideally, that's true, but as album-centric bands have used EP's for dumping grounds of unfinished ideas and miscellaneous garbage, the format has been stigmatized.

The Ash Eaters is a black metal project that has fully embraced the EP format, releasing a number of them over the past few years as free downloads. One of these, The Cruel Side, was my top EP of 2011. On top of original material, the repertoire has also included radically re-imagined covers of bands such as Black Sabbath and the Misfits. Taken as a whole, the catalog shows a mind which looks at music in a very different way, and draws on some very widely ranging influences. They also show a gradual evolution to an already-promising sound. With the newly-released Ibn Ghazi, the project has once again exceeded all expectations.

Up-front, I should mention that it's almost entirely instrumental. At least nine times out of ten, I'm going to hate instrumental music, but the music is so thoroughly engaging that vocals aren't necessary. The hypnotic riffing consists of mostly open chords that are allowed to blend into one another, creating the impression that you're hearing notes that aren't even being played. That is used to its full advantage, as choral backing vocals on the second, longer track are mixed at such a level that you question whether you're actually hearing them, or just imagining it.

The structures of the two seamlessly-connected songs also make good use of the distinctive riffing style. They tend to explore just a few riffs of differing tempos, alternating them. Slight modifications appear in those themes regularly over the course of the song. The effect is that as they induce the trance, they pull you further into their intricacies.

There is only one drawback to Ibn Ghazi. As I stated, the vocals aren't necessary, but more of them would be nice.

It's rare that I dedicate an entire review to such a short release; that I had this much to say about a mere 13 minutes of music should tell you much. The case for the EP format is strongly made.

The Verdict: 4.5 out of 5 stars

The Ash Eaters Bandcamp

The Ash Eaters Blogspot

FULL DISCLOSURE: I was thanked in the liner notes, presumably due to my praise of the last release. It has not affected my opinion in any way.

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