Black metal folklore is rife of stories and examples of bands putting more effort into keeping their “kvlt” presence as esoteric and fame-averse as possible. Nobody goes into black metal to achieve mainstream success, of course; I’m pretty sure that’s not even realistically achievable. The urban legend surrounding Weakling’s Dead As Dreams, for instance, suggested that members of the band didn’t want to distribute the album in any legitimate fashion, but rather have them buried so as to be discovered later on as some kind of, literally, underground relic. Portland’s Velvet Cacoon even invented a completely absurd backstory about themselves just for the sake of proving they could pull an elaborate hoax on the black metal community. And this is before even getting into the countless acts like Moonblood, whose releases, for a time, were only available on ultra limited edition cassette or vinyl, or, the preferred method of black metal archaeologists, unauthorized download.
Arcata, Calif., black metal foursome Ash Borer don’t have any kind of absurd mythology, but to date, tracking down their releases has proven a bit tricky. Their output has mostly consisted of limited-run LPs and cassettes, though this likely results from having a more practical outlook than one concerned with any goofball notions of what it means to be “tr00.” But no matter how rare their blood-red self-titled release on Psychic Violence is, its grand, epic and atmospherically mesmerizing cacophony is absolutely worth tracking down.
Trudging through a skull rattling three tracks in 40 minutes, Ash Borer aren’t a band for whom brevity means much. Though their colossal black metal blend incorporates elements of post-rock, crust punk and doom, the elements, when combined, add up to something more complex and multi-layered than some of black metal’s more purist-minded actors. In many ways, the album’s longest track, “My Curse Was Raised In the Darkness Against a Doomsday Silence,” has more in common with a band like Godspeed You! Black Emperor than Darkthrone. Its numerous phases and movements, spread out over 20 minutes, represent a stunning metal suite that soars through blistering monsoons of blast beats, and melancholy interludes of ambience. The opening “In the Midst of Life, We Are In Death,” however, opens with some crushing, Yob-like doom thunder, slowly shaking the structure until about three minutes in, at which point the melodic black metal exorcism begins. “Rest, You Are the Lightning” is the most straightforward track here, but even this eight-minute blackened crust monster seems strangely supernatural.
This summer, the band plans to release their first widely distributed full-length via Profound Lore, though until then, digital excavation or eBay might be the only realistic way to obtain its predecessor. Beautiful, terrifying and intense, it’s well worth the dig.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.