The Ember, the Ash – Fixation Review

The Ember, the Ash hail from the Canadian province of Ontario, and are not my usual cup of tea. The project is a solo effort by one , and is listed in the Metal Archives as being one of symphonic deathcore, which is so far outside of my usual wheelhouse that I’m not entirely sure what drew me to Fixation, the project’s sophomore effort. And yet, here I am, several listens in, not tearing my hair out with my hands, and admitting to have enjoyed the experience. Expansion, trying out something new – these are good things. Fixation is a twisted, blackened alleyway of rage and anguish, and I am open to it. But how does it sound?

Fixation takes off in angry, grimy fashion through opener “Strychnine” and the following title track, the aforementioned of which is a great adjective with which to explain the sound of the album as a whole. Described as “straddling the gulf between symphonic black metal and textured metalcore,” The Ember, the Ash has a sound dominated by loud, grimy guitars that are sharp as knives and a vocal style that screams (yes, literally) “-core.” Said screams are a bit of an acquired taste, but they suit the music well; dark, it’s jagged, and symphonic for sure, with distant synths coating the grimy riffs with a gloomy edge that makes the song more digestible for those who aren’t big on deathcore and its related styles.

Throughout Fixation, tracks like “The Colossal Void” come textured with lead guitars and synths that accent the inherent despairing gloom of the album. True to its metalcore heritage, Fixation feels like a frustrated, hopeless scream into the void, resigned to its enduring pain. Unfortunately, the song leans a little too hard on the same idea, feeling repetitive over its six-minute runtime. “Celestial Fracture” is perhaps the best of the bunch, with plenty of cool ideas over a three-and-a-half-minute runtime that allow the band to explore tremolo leads, atmospheric synths, and surprisingly inventive drumming. I love the keys that open the song, and its middle-pace leanings make it feel a touch more adventurous than angsty. 

The Ember, the Ash shine at their brightest on the second half of Fixation; the songs including and following “Celestial Fracture” tend to have more ideas, blend the symphonic ideas best (see: the twinkling keys that adorn “A Growing Emptiness”), and blend the symphonic black and metalcore styles better than in the first half. While I find the first four songs on Fixation are fairly forgettable, the last three are engaging and enjoyable to a much higher degree. As I enjoy black metal much more than I do metalcore, I’m also appreciative that these songs incorporate greater use of the guitar and drumming styles that dominate that sub-genre – especially in the album closer, the colossal “Consciousness Torn from the Void.” As a result, Fixation, while sharp, well-produced, and solid, feels lopsided and less fulfilling than I think it could have been.

I enjoyed Fixation, and I’ll be looking forward to future releases from The Ember, the Ash, but I have to say I was hoping for more from this album. Maybe it’s because songs like “Celestial Fracture” and “A Growing Emptiness” speak to such a high bar of quality that it’s a bit tough to go easy on the rest of the album. The foundation is solid for certain – I love the emotional core of the music – but I feel like it stumbles over itself for a fair portion of the album. There’s enough going on here that this is an album I’ve been happy to review, but I don’t know how much I’ll be coming back to it as a whole. 

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Prosthetic Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: May 14th, 2021

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