Ashes is the 4th full-length album from the one man Scottish black metal entity Necronoclast, and his 2nd through Moribund. It also happens to be the first I've heard, so my knowledge of his back efforts is lacking entirely, but the formula here is common enough that to identify. Greg Edwards performs all of the instruments and vocals, using programmed drums and incredibly raw, fuzzy tones to create an authentic return to the aesthetics of the early to mid 90s. You'll hear a clear influence from Burzum, Ulver and Darkthrone, at least in the fabric of the guitars, but Edwards uses a mix of death/growls for added, ballistic aggression. One band I am actually quite reminded of is Sweden's Niden Div. 187, who possessed a similar nihilistic breadth and comparably unflattering, caustic tones.
Certainly, Edwards sets up a steady atmosphere here, and to his credit he paces himself, with tracks like "Ghostways" and "Ashes" swerving into slower terrain to counterbalance the utter blasted chaos which can sadly grow repetitious. But the problem faced with Ashes is that most of the chords, while eerie, just don't manifest into interesting patterns that catch the ear with more than appreciable vitriol. Even the gleaming, dire melodies that propagate through the voluptuous bridge of "Veil of Flies" feel more predictable than uncanny, and this might be my single favorite moment on the album, though to be fair, the following "Kajicnicke Saty" is a more curious piece that flirts with a bobbing and weaving structure of hostility and obscured majesty.
You don't really hear much straight black metal out of Scotland, so there's a tiny spark of nuance at the fact that this is arriving from that corner of the world. Black metal purists who so admire honest excursions into the fundamentals of modern, necrotic primacy will probably appreciate Edwards' sincerity, because he does represent a legitimate manifestation of horror without all the trappings of excess studio polish or noodling wankery. There is no 'symphony' here aside from the backdrop he sets up with the chords and cold, machine drumming. The emotional edge of this album is nothing more than a razor sawing through the veins, and to that extent, Ashes is a fairly effective, if unmemorable experience. Not bad for one man, but I'd like to hear him reach further into his demons and disintegrate all opposition.
Verdict: Indifference [6.75/10]