Ashbringer  - Vacant 01bWhen one thinks of one-man black metal projects, one immed… WAIT, WHERE ARE YOU GOING!??!?!? NO, COME BACK HERE!!! WHY ARE YOU LEAVING? Yes, I know, another one-man black metal band. But this one is different, I swear! Come back… it’s okay… I love you. *clears throat* Now, where were we? Ah yes, when one thinks of one-man black metal projects, one immediately either thinks of either Xasthur or some dude making whooshing wind noises over trebly guitars. 18-year old Minnesotan Nick Stanger set out to prove everyone wrong with his Ashbringer project, capturing the sounds of the Pacific Northwest with his debut, Vacant. Will Bedroom Metal™ finally have a new name to champion?

Well, he may not be the new name in one-man band projects, but he impressed the living hell out of me nonetheless. At such a young age, Nick already has a fairly strong grasp of songwriting skills and atmosphere. The two-part “Ethereal Aura” does a great job setting up the listener for quality folk-influenced black metal, the first part being gently strummed acoustic guitar with some deep baritone singing before we get some trebly, heavily-feedbacked guitars and Stanger’s rasps, bleeding into the “Oh hi, Oregon! How are you?”-influenced second part, complete with tremolo harmonies, thick robust bass, and the occasional quiet moment here-and-there. You will picture throne rooms occupied by wolves, dudes with antler fetishes, and lots and lots of trees. But the thing is it’s performed quite capably, considering it’s one very talented, very young dude.

Each of the six tracks on here, with minor exceptions, do a great job of not feeling like their near-ten minute individual time length (barring the aforementioned “Ethereal Aura pt. I” and “Lonesome,” as both clock under four minutes, and the 11+ minute closer, “Bitter”), feeling a whole lot shorter but definitely engaging. Stanger’s has a strong command of every instrument played on Vacant, especially his fluid bass work, which reminds me an awful lot of Opeth‘s darker moments ala My Arms, Your Hearse, especially on “With Vacant Eyes” and “Lucid.” For such a young guy, his clean vocals also present some strength early on in his career, resembling a younger Mikael Åkerfeldt (Opeth) during the album’s more restrained moments. But what impresses me most about Vacant is the sheer amount of atmosphere dripping from Stanger’s capable hands. The instrumental “Lonesome” is a strong case for this, as there’s a simple keyboard melody of harmonic chimes, and bongos panning hard left and right, fully enveloping the listener, and pulling them into his sylvan world.

Ashbringer  - Vacant 02

And with some exceptions, the album is produced capably well. The tambourine sounds a bit off on “Lonesome,” but otherwise this is a pretty dense, richly produced album. If any complaints are to be had, it’s with the song length. I feel more could be said with a little less (“Bitter” goes on for a bit too long), and boredom can come creeping around the corner if not careful. Thankfully, Vacant avoids most of the pitfalls that one-man black metal bands face when it comes to songcraft and execution.

Ashbringer is an intriguing prospect. Having spent a good week listening to it, I found myself often wishing I was back home in New Hampshire, fishing with family or having a cigar by the campfire. The fact that this is helmed by a talented young man shows me that there’s more to be heard, and it will be damn good, I’m sure. Highly recommended. See, that wasn’t so bad… *pets you gently on the head*


Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: V0 mp3
Label: Avantgarde Music
Websites: AshbringerOfficial | facebook.com/Ashbringer
Release Date: Out Worldwide: 05.25.2015

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  • Scorpion

    Yay! Grymm! Grymm! Grymm!

    • Grymm

      Aww, dude…

      *sniffles as I wipe tears from my eyes*

  • Dr. A.N. Grier

    Goddamn you and your opener! I have to clean this fucking coffee off my keyboard now. Enjoyable and also a great review. I’m digging this band so far.

    • Grymm

      I wrote that because that’s how *I* usually am with one-man black metal bands.

      And thank you!

      • Dr. A.N. Grier

        I like it. Good stuff.

    • Celaeno

      Yep, the opener definitely grabbed me here. And I’m glad it did. Will definitely check out the rest of this album. Thanks Grymm!

  • dduuurrrr dddduuuurrrr

    If we could only get a bunch of the Minnesota metal bands working together we would have a pretty prominent scene. Panopticon is now native to our state and little bands like this that I wasn’t aware of keep popping up.

    I think the cold weather and terrible roads keep us pretty isolated from each other.

    • Rob

      Definitely something in the air around those parts… you should check out Jute Gyte. One man Black Metal act in Missouri who retrofitted his guitar to play microtonal scales. It’s pretty amazing stuff. He does ambient and experimental electronic stuff as well.

      • Dr. A.N. Grier

        Not a one-man band, but I love Colorado-based Cobalt (even though one of the dudes contributed to their last couple albums from Iraq where he was serving). Gin is an awesome album of “progressive” black metal that mixes solid riffs and atmosphere with long Tool-like builds. Good stuff.

        • Gin’s a modern day classic. Future paleontologists will be wondering how we didn’t immediately self-destruct after hearing it.

          • Dr. A.N. Grier

            Exactly. Love that fucking album!

        • Grymm

          Cobalt are awesome.

      • Dr. A.N. Grier

        That dude from Jute Gyte can’t quit. Three albums in 2008, three in 2010, five in 2011, five in 2012… I don’t even know where to start!

  • Rob

    And there you go again making me homesick, Grymm. That last paragraph put me out near Moultonborough Neck on Lake Winnipesaukee. I can just hear this echoing off the hills and trees in the deep night.

    • Grymm

      I lived not far from there (Bypass 28 in Derry).

      • Rob

        What really cracks me up is that the bear in your profile pic reminds me of Clark’s Trading Post…

        • Grymm

          I MISS CLARK’S TRADING POST!!!

          So many good memories.

  • sir_c

    This one, and The Malefic Miasma by Ages are both some pretty decent BM debuts.

  • Oh hai “name your price” digital download. Get on my wishlist, will you?

  • Angel R. Suarez

    You always say you love me.

    I can’t keep doing this, Grymm. Even your excellently written reviews can’t save this.

  • OzanCan

    My taste for Black Metal has changed significantly after I’d listened to the Carach Angren’s “Where The Corpses Sink Forever” album.
    Nowadays, if I wanna listen to black metal, I can only listen to Carach Angren and/or Agalloch. I dunno, maybe it is a just phase…