Creatively captivating black/doom duo hailing from Basel, Switzerland, Ashtar, has returned after five years with their sophomore album Kaikuja. The band has been in the studio since the summer of 2019 developing their sound and creating this darkly impressive work of art. The rich and idiosyncratic tracks of this album are layered with intricacies giving each listen new discoveries and appreciation.
The album opens with a bang—starting ferociously with blast beat drumming, tremolo picking, and harsh vocals. The first taste of the album is black metal, but that flavor evolves with each track introducing dashes of doom, sludge, drone, and post-rock. Following the opener, “Between Furious Clouds” gently begins with a soothing clean electric guitar melody (which is echoed throughout the almost 14-minute song) with bass and violin. The album title Kaikuja means “echoes” in Finnish and this track reflects that title perfectly. The meditative introduction spans a little over two minutes before breaking into distorted guitar repeating the same melody. The variety here is captivating. There’s a mix of tempos as the composition progresses and different instruments are featured showcasing the skills of this duo. The last few minutes of “Between Furious Clouds” features some killer drumming and brings back the violin for a unique and haunting sound.
The album progresses further into doom metal but does not completely conform as earlier elements still reverberate throughout. Kaikuja closes with “(She is) Awakening,” a fitting ominous title that consists of eerie instrumental moments of distorted guitar and violin. This cacophonous outro is a powerful ending to the album as the guitar fades out and the listener is left with resounding violin.
Kaikuja is beautifully dark and haunting with unique blends of instrumentation and musical styles all created by just two talented musicians—Nadine Lehtinen and Marko Lehtinen. Both musicians contribute vocals, bass, and guitar while Nadine adds violin and Marko adds drums—creating a robust and enchanting soundscape. With two killer albums to their name, Ashtar is making waves and I cannot wait to see where this band goes and how they develop their creative craft with future releases.