For reasons unknown, most metal fans are very sceptical of Christian metal bands and female fronted metal bands. They blame the Christian part for making the band “not as heavy” as their darker counterparts and “just plain sucky”, while they say the female fronted aspect is “gimmicky”. I blame satanic misogyny for this point of view (Damn, Satanic Misogyny is a great name for a grindcore/black metal band. Just credit me if you use it). Adorned in Ash plunged themselves head first into this whirlpool of prejudice. So for this review, I will not mention any religion, Arch Enemy or Angela Gossow. Let’s see how does the music holds up on its own.
The Dead Walk Among Us is the debut album of this quartet, hailing from the grim wastelands known as Pretoria. I know that most people normally ask what subgenre does the band fit under, and that is really hard to pinpoint on this album. With tracks ranging from death metal to thrash metal to black metal, even a track that can be considered doom metal, they cover large parts of the extreme metal pantheon. Due to this large variety of styles, it is hard to find comparable bands. Moments of Behemoth, Exodus, Satyricon and even Trivium are evident on this album, but none of them can be listed as main influence of this record.
The writing feels organic; the performances are well executed and the level of musicianship is high. The guitar duo of Robyn Ferguson and Leon van Rensburg sculpt songs that flow quite nicely with some catchy riffs – The verse riff of “Molested Innocence” is going to be stuck in my head for quite a while. Many bassists don’t get the acknowledgement they deserve, but the style of Marinus Terreblance served the songs quite well, being neither overbearing or underplayed. My favourite performance on the album comes from Mark Ivey on drums, especially on “Broken Glass Reflection”. This man is a beast behind the kit and might be one of my new favourite local drummers. Robyn is quite proficient as a vocalist and has a good range, with the monotony of many death and black metal vocalists absent from her performance. Crushing riffs, heavy drums, dark vocals: Everything you want from a band wearing corpsepaint.
Unfortunately, I do have some gripes with this album. The production is not bad, but it’s not great either and I found it to be a bit sterile to my tastes. I could hear the intent and passion in the performances, but some of this was lost in the mix. The drums felt too flat and it did not have the punch it needed. The album sounds like it needs production more akin to that of Arch Ene… uhm… Insomnium or a bit more raw like Keep of Kalessin‘s Armada.
The style diversity on the album was somewhat distracting as well. It shifts frantically between songs, which I found to be a bit much at times. An example of this is the song “Blood Hunt Labyrinth”. It is not a bad song, but I don’t think it fits with the rest of the album. However, the well written nature of the music does lessen this objection to a minor grumble.
These grievances aside, Adorned in Ash can be proud of a very well written and performed debut. If all goes according to plan, the sophomore album should be one for the books. The Dead Walk Among Us is available on their website adornedinash.com.
Stream “Broken Glass Reflection” below and make sure to catch Adorned in Ash at Metal4Africa’s Summerfest ’14 on February 1st, check out the Facebook event for more details.