Code666 has shown a knack for finding some of the more interesting avant-garde metal over the years, and they’ve continued this with the upcoming release of ‘Speak Not Of The Laudanum Quandary’, the debut from Scotland’s Ashenspire. When promotional material for an album mentions A Forest of Stars, Dødheimsgard, and Devil Doll (to name a few), that certainly catches my attention. What Ashenspire has done on their debut is explore the taken a darker look at British imperialism and its effects throughout history, a direct refute of the type of nationalism that has taken hold throughout black metal and some of the other sub-genres. Delivered through an avant-garde and theatrical filter, the group delivers these dark tales in a sprawling yet unpredictable manner that does its best to give off a feeling of discomfort and grime. With the album set for release on January 20th, today we’re excited to premiere the title track of ‘Speak Not Of The Laudanum Quandary’ so you can hear for yourself everything this incredible band has to offer.
The title track closes out the seven song album and is the longest piece at just under thirteen minutes in length. Ashenspire makes the most of this run time, and with the amount of sudden shifts and nuances lurking beneath the surface chances are you’re going to need multiple listens before everything the band has thrown into this track begin to become clear. That’s true of the album as a whole, but the extended length provides time for even more twists and turns on this piece. Speak Not Of The Laudanum Quandary begins with a stark, haunting piano arrangement that is quickly overlaid with harsher guitar leads. One of the things that Ashenspire does perfectly is create natural ebbs and flows that suit their narrative, as the harsher elements give way to softer interludes that then add in new instruments. By the halfway point, the piano has been exchanged for the violin and the guitars continue to expand outwards, incorporating atmospheric build-ups that are soaked in layers of grime and filth. There are additional transitions designed to catch you off guard, and the drumming often pulls from a jazzier rhythmic pattern that has an off-balance feel and provides a further sense of unpredictability. Atmospheric, unpredictable, and consistently dark, ‘Speak Not Of The Laudanum Quandry’ is capable of leaving a lasting impression.
Up to this point my focus has been entirely on the instrumentation, which has plenty to offer the adventurous listener. But what truly makes Ashenspire attention grabbing is the performance of Alasdair Dunn, one of the founding members of the group. As previously mentioned, each song tackles darker looks at the effects of British imperialism and it is delivered through a theatrical approach that grabs you from the very start. Each word is delivered in a harsh and biting manner, with Dunn delivering just as much grit and power as the rest of the band. Later on in the track this verbose speech transitions into some operatic singing and other pitches, and it has the type of intensity that will have you hanging on every word. At its most intense Dunn sounds like a manic preacher signaling the end of days, and that’s quite appealing.
Originally conceived in 2013, it’s clear that Ashenspire has spent the past few years fine tuning their avant-garde take on black metal to the point that every little detail flows perfectly with the next. With jagged transitions and nuances that don’t fully reveal themselves until a few times through ‘Speak Not Of The Laudanum Quandry’ demands your undivided attention to completely appreciate, but there’s plenty to hook you from that first listen and keep you returning. Code666 will be releasing the album on January 20th, and you can pre-order via the link below.
Album Pre-Order | Ashenspire | Code666