ASHTAR - Ilmasaari / VINYL LP (black, ltd. 200)
VINYL LP ALBUM | GATEFOLD SLEEVE
· 140gr vinyl
· 350gr gatefold sleeve printed inside-out
· Printed inner paper sleeve
· Cover Art by Alfons Mucha
· Mixed and mastered by Greg Chandler (Esoteric, Lychgate)
· Collector's edition: 75 hand-numbered copies on double-mint green-speckled transparent purple vinyl
· Black vinyl edition: 200 copies
Switzerland's female-fronted Ashtar is an exotic and perfect blend of pagan Black Metal and Doom, with a distinctive European trade mark. Actually they come from a country worldwide known for its high mountains, snowfalls and Celtic Frost!!!
Ashtar's debut album is the perfect record to listen to at night with candle light, while outside a snowstorm is blazing. You can recognize elements of Celtic Frost, Ludicra, Bathory and Sacrilege. While Ashtar develop these influences one step further and mold their own sonic brand by adding acoustic guitars, string arrangements and didgeridoos.
"Ilmassari" is a haunting magick album, so rich and dense you'll spin it several times in a row.
"Ashtar is the new project of Marko Lehtinen, drummer of Swiss psychedelic stoner rock act Phased, and Witch N., formely bassist, violinist and backing vocalist, of Swiss doom/death band shEver. With Ashtar, the two members move closer to the doom metal edge, along with a fair amount of black metal influence and sludge extensions.
The debut album of Ashtar, Ilmassari, is built around the doom weight. Heavy riffs continuously come down, as the band travels through different modes. The switch to stonerized doom moments in “She Was A Witch” and the sludge injections to the already heavy methodology shine in “Celestial,” “Moons” and “Collide.” And as is expected, along the heavy riffs come the repetitive patterns, constantly grinding. In some cases these parts are able to give a sick, twisted jam session with the circling riffs producing a morbid feeling, for example in “Celestial” and the middle part of “These Nights Will Shine On.”
Then there is also the black metal side of Ashtar, coming in very early in this album with the atmosphere of the opening track radiating a cold, detached aura. The riffology soon starts to point to that direction as well, with “Moons” switching comfortably between the sludge sound to an aggressive black metal outbreak. What is very nicely done however is the manner in which Ashtar can move through the different tempos, approaching the black metal parts with speed and fury, while meeting the doom riffs with groove and energy, in “Moons” for instance, or with a ritualistic quality in “Celestial.”
The one track that I find to really stand out in this album is “These Nights Will Shine On,” for its very good merge of black metal and doom. By far one of the most ambitious moments of the album, alongside the spacious “Celestial,” it provides an outstanding moment, where the fury and eerie aspects of black metal can exist within a doom setting, as the leads add more emotion and despair to a tremendous track. What is also very nicely done in this album is the construction of ambiance, through means of enriching the background. Simple additions such as the whispers in the opening track can go a long way, while the inclusion of some clean, creeping melodies in “She Was A Witch” and “Celestial” give more depth to the track. However, the most complete moment, in terms of ambiance and instrumentation, has to be the final track of the album, “Collide” seeing the inclusion of violin and the peaceful background setting the stage perfectly for the sludge weight that will soon come.
Ilmasaari is a solid album, revealing a band that has a great grasp on doom metal and uses interesting methods to enhance the basis of their sound. However, it is tracks such “These Nights Will Shine On” and “Collide” that really shine and tell of an even greater future that will arrive, hopefully soon."
"Ilmasaari is the debut full-length from Basel, Switzerland duo Ashtar. Expect six tracks of uniquely blackened doom/sludgy goodness in over 45 minutes, that tends to lean on the dark and ethereal, while shunning anything that might typically garner any "stonery" adjectives.
With a little bit of a black metal-esque snarl to the vocals, opener "Des Siècles Qui Éternellement Séparent le Corps Mortel de Mon Âme" unloads sludgy, head-bobbing grooves with fuzzily overdriven lead textures/psych implications. There's a relaxed swing to the percussion that eventually starts to blast—alongside some tremolo picking—shortly past the halfway mark, though tonally it's very different than stereotypical black metal aesthetics. The basic yet incredibly effective "She Was a Witch" then builds upon a core of simple, driving doom riffs. Again, the vocals are generally more of a bitter snarl, though there are fantastically droning monotone chants in there, too. The 13-minute "Celestial" continues that trend of top-shelf riffing, layering in some superbly eerie acoustic finger picking to boot. Largely instrumental (half-whispered vocals don't make an appearance until almost four minutes in), its length and repetition aid its hypnotic effects—slowly flowing into one of the more mournfully melodic pieces. Gorgeous work.
Despite being the shortest track at five minutes, the overall pace of "Moons" is a touch slower, the vocals a touch deeper (joined by lulled singing)—a textbook lesson in doom supremacy. Then, unexpectedly, "These Nights Will Shine On" quickly twists a very similar approach into a midpaced black metal rager that by the three-minute mark has dropped out to near silence, before easing back into a doom-psych groove for the remainder of its run. And don't let the succinct atmospheric intro to "Collide" fool you: that didgeridoo/violin combo will bring to mind My Dying Bride in no time.
Part of what makes the simplicity of tracks like "She Was a Witch" or "Moons" so impactful is that the guitar tone is so fuckin' beautiful. Incredibly warm, the perfect amount of grit, monstrously heavy… I don't know if you could score a better guitar tone for anything of the doom/sludge variety. So, of course guitars dominate the mix, but that makes perfect sense. You can make out just enough bass, and while the percussion is surprisingly distant, that feels just fine.
I know I always say the same shit over and over, but I remain consistently stunned by the fact that these bands don't seem to obtain the wider scope of attention they deserve. All of the ingredients are present, and in plentiful supply, so coax these sounds into the right ears, and minds will be blown..."