Ablaze My Sorrow – Among Ashes and Monoliths Review

Melodeath is a tough sub-genre to review because it exists in a perpetual state of tension. It’s pulled in three directions constantly: death metal at one point, traditional heavy metal at another, and power metal at the third. The ebb and flow between these is what makes it enjoyable, but it’s also what divides fans. Err too much to one end and the music sounds “death metal-lite.” Err towards another and it resembles strained power-metal without any heft. The best melodeath is able to resolve these tensions, creating a palatable middle-ground. The Swedish melodeath scene of the 90s mastered this, and was pivotal to the movement’s popularity. A minor, but not inconsequential, contributor was Falkenberg’s awkwardly titled Ablaze My Sorrow. Formed in 1993, the band broke up in 2006 after just 3 albums, before reforming again in 2013. Ablaze My Sorrow plays a brand of melodeath instantly recognizable to anyone with even a passing interest in the scene. At the Gates and early In Flames are some clear touchstones, and the band has stayed true to its roots with its fifth collection, Among Ashes and Monoliths. Has this group of veterans succeeded in hitting the elusive melodeath sweet spot?

The answer, sadly, is no. Among Ashes and Monoliths sticks to the tried and tested formula, which sounded fresh in 1993, but is getting stale now. The first major problem with Among Ashes and Monoliths is that too many of the songs are compositionally dull. The band comes up with a riff, which is usually fairly basic and involves rudimentary chord changes, and then proceeds to hammer this idea into oblivion without any real development. There’s the usual verse/chorus/verse, but too many tracks just don’t go anywhere interesting. “Among Ashes and Monoliths” has a crunchy riff that isn’t expanded upon or altered in any meaningful way over 4 minutes. “Grit” simply recycles its tremolo verse and thudding chorus to the point that any interest is hammered out. The lack of evolution on many of the tracks is evident the more you listen. This is compounded by songs that are also too light, lacking the crunch of good death metal, while also not having enough melody to compensate. The result is that Among Ashes and Monoliths is just not very interesting.

The album as a whole also seems bereft of ideas. Too many of the songs sound similar to each other, and to their 90s influences, and languidly hum along at the same mid-to-fast tempo of countless predecessors. There are riffs that have been clearly recycled between tracks (“At the Graves of Giants” and “Frihet Famför Feghet” feel like they have a common progenitor), and even the strained clean vocals are consistent (“The Cavernous Deep” and “The Day I Die”). This  sense of deja vu is particularly noticeable in the album’s middle section, which drags badly as a result. Among Ashes and Monoliths feels much longer than its 50 minute run time, but is also surprisingly unmemorable.

This is frustrating, because there are moments, and movements, of Among Ashes and Monoliths that work well. “My Sorrow” has an urgent, compelling melody driving it forward. “The Cavernous Deep” has a catchy, melodic chorus that will get those neck muscles flexing in all the best ways. Fragments of interest appear, but are then snatched away by a familiar-sounding riff or chorus. This is an album of cool moments, performed by competent and experienced musicians, but there is simply not enough variety and dynamism linking those moments for them to make a lasting impression.

Among Ashes and Monoliths feels like a very early version of a potentially cool album; the first draft of a manuscript. There are ideas here, but they’re either underdeveloped or bashed into oblivion. There are cool riffs, but there also are too many versions of the same cool riff, rendering them impotent. Too many songs sound like knockoffs of each other and it’s neither crunchy nor melodic enough to stick out in the genre it helped define. The result is an unoriginal hodgepodge that will likely leave fans of melodeath, and the Swedish scene, dissatisfied.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Black Lion Records
Websites: ablazemysorrowblacklion.bandcamp.com/  | facebook.com/ablazemysorrowswe
Releases Worldwide: February 12th, 2021

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