Eight albums into his solo career, it seems there aren’t many dusty taverns or lonesome mountain passes Ben Chasny and his guitar haven’t traveled through. The man’s ethos is unflagging; in addition to stints with Comets On Fire and Current 93, his work under the Six Organs Of Admittance moniker has released a steady output for nearly a decade. The latest evidence of his non-stop work ethic, Shelter From The Ash, finds the troubadour in step with his already respectable catalog.
Like a vagabond minstrel keening for a time and place concealed in the detritus of memory, Chasny illuminates otherwise bleak plateaus with the ringing of his acoustic guitar on opener “Alone With The Alone.” An open drone and Comet’s bandmate Noel Harmonson’s clattering cymbals threaten to upset the balance, until Tim Green and Chasny wheel in with some seam-shredding solos that leave the composition torn off its hinges. It’s not an unusual sound to those familiar with the Six Organs aesthetic, even if it is a bit unsettling. But if anything, it’s that awareness that fails in many ways to distance Shelter From The Ash from its predecessors.
Beginning with School Of The Flower and taken through last year’s excellent The Sun Awakens, Chasny’s intuitive grasp of organic folk posturing, eastern rhythms and rock-god machismo (if understated) has come to define the Six Organs experience. Not deterred from this current musical trajectory, Shelter From The Ash neither blazes ahead stylistically nor does it drown of the wake of its forebears. Chasny does, however, display marked improvement in his songwriting abilities (“Strangled Road,” “Jade Like Wine”) and on the instrumentals (“Goddess Atonement,” “Goodnight”), a preternatural dexterity when wielding an acoustic guitar.
If “Coming To Get You” never delivers the overt menace its title seems to promise, it’s only because the song places too much emphasis on lyrical decries and Chasny’s limited vocal range, not the demon-screeching guitars that descend near the end. Chasny once again employs Tim Green to assist with production duties and the album, for its minor pitfalls, benefits from a crisp recording. Instead of some monolithic dirge (think the 23 minute “River Of Transfiguration” from The Sun Awakens), the lullaby “Goodnight” ends the album on a somber note, whisking the listener off on the gentle acoustic ambiance.
Sir Richard Bishop – Fingering The Devil
Lichens – The Psychic Nature Of Being
Jackie-O Motherfucker – Flags Of The Sacred Harp