Second Circle: Memoriam and Ashen Horde

In Dante’s Inferno, the second circle begins the proper punishment of Hell, a place where “no thing gleams.” It is reserved for those overcome with Lust, where carnal appetites hold sway over reason. In Nine Circles, it’s where we do shorter reviews of new (ish) albums that share a common theme.

Looks like purple’s gonna be the theme for this edition of Second Circle. Although you could also easily say the theme is killer metal not enough folks are talking about. Anyway you wanna slice it, we’re here to drop some knowledge about the latest offerings from Memoriam and Ashen Horde, so turn that volume knob clockwise until it stops, limber up and get ready to bang that head.

Bring it on.

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Memoriam - Rise To Power

As much as I love Bolt Thrower, I’m not one to bemoan the loss of a death metal giant. You know why? Because since 2017 former vocalist Karl Willetts has been fronting Memoriam, who not only has been keeping that very particular brand of death metal alive, but has been keeping it fresh, exciting, and aggressive as hell. Rise to Power sees the band continuing their trajectory of injecting venom into the old school death metal formula, and album #5 might be the best offering yet, from the agonizing harmonized leads that kick off “Never Forget, Never Again (6 Million Dead)” to the absolute bludgeon of closer “This Plan.”

If you have a riff that I keep singing along to out loud, you know you got me. And Rise to Power has that in “Total War” which is a banger whose riffs I can’t stop singing along to to. My family hates it. The production by Russ Russell is thick and clear, letting those massively heavy guitars from Scott Fairfax drip like lava. I love the alternating between the almost doom leads and the more groove section of “I am the Enemy” and the charging attack of single “All is Lost.” Couple that with yet another fantastic cover by the legendary Dan Seagrave and Rise to Power is primed to be an early contender for the best death metal album of 2023.

Rise to Power will be available February 3 from Reaper Music. For more information on Memoriam, check out their website, Instagram and Facebook pages.

Ashen Horde - Antimony

Integrating blackened elements in a decidedly progressive death foundation, Ashen Horde are drumming up some serious riffage on Antimony. A concept album tackling the true crime story of Charles Bravo, murdered in 1876, the album is a twisted labyrinth of guitar lines, riffs and solos tied in some kind of knotted puzzle thanks to some truly wicked percussion courtesy of Robin from the band Norse. The blackened portion really comes into play with the vocals, with Stevie of Inferi and Equipoise providing a blackened rasp which is sometimes doubled against the cleaner approach of guitarist Trevor.

But what about the songs? Think more progressive death metal than black metal, with robust, clear production and a heavy emphasis on killer guitar work and you’re halfway there. It may be that it’s just early in the year, but I’m really into how the band crafts so many different sections on tracks like opener “The Throes of Agony” and late album epic “Animus Nocendi” but still manage to make the songs cohesive rather than fragmented. This isn’t Death-like progressive metal; think more along the lines of bands like Immortal and Satyricon on their later, more progressive minded outings. You’re not getting blasts and tremolo lines every other section, but you’re also not veering into BTBAM territory, either. Which is a good thing – Ashen Horde have dialed into a sound and nail it effortlessly.

Antimony is available now on Transcending Obscurity. For more information on Ashen Horde, check out their Facebook page.

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Until next time, keep it heavy…keep it safe.

– Chris

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