Album: Hostile Architecture
Label: Aural Music
Release Date: 18/07/2022
Location: Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom
I’m beyond happy to finally look at Ashenspire’s magnum opus, my album of the year 2022 without a doubt. More than that it has secured itself a place in my top 10 albums of all-time list, a selection that very rarely changes.
The Scottish avant-garde black metal act have outdone themselves with this release. Pushing the boundaries of not just black metal but music as a whole. In the process they have set a new standard for just how angry an album can be. By angry I don’t mean “look at how loud I can shout, I’m so aggressive, I mean ferocity through palpably seething contempt in concept and theme.
This is an album that brutally critiques the current world system in which we all exist. By that I mean that this is a violent rant against both late-stage capitalism and neoliberalism. This is a hate-letter to those in power, written from the perspective of those who are exploited and cast aside by this current system. If you’re one of those people who read this and think “oh great another leftist band, no thank you” then you can kindly go fuck yourself because regardless of your political leanings, if you can’t find truth in the messages espoused by this album then your IQ is probably barely high enough to actually be reading this article at all and QAnon may be more your speed.
The albums message is presented through a highly unique vocal style that sits somewhere between spoken word, shouting and black metal style vocals. There’s a constant and unpredictable shift that occurs throughout as the three styles are constantly cycled through. The delivery style perfectly allows every word of the album’s central message to be understood. At times these vocals get so raw and emotional that they actually send shivers down my spine, particularly due to the strategic timing of these moments to coincide with particularly hard-hitting lyrics.
Instrumentally the album is all over the place and the closest band that I can think to compare them to is Akercocke. While there are less black metal and more avant-garde elements here, there are definitely some similarities at play.
There’s a heavy use of violin throughout that adds even more emotional depth to the mix and gives the whole release a richness of sound. There’s probably almost as much of this as there is distorted guitar on the album. As far as that distorted guitar goes there’s a mix of brooding atmosphere and harsh abrasive dissonance. The balance struck between the two is one of the most captivating elements of the album and ensures that things never feel dull or repetitive.
I know I’ve already talked about them but I’m going to keep coming back to those lyrics. I really just haven’t found an album in years that was this intelligently written and that covered topics so genuinely meaningful. There are so many elements discussed here that relate to everyday lived experiences of so much of humanity. The album presents what I would describe as righteous anger at these injustices, not just for the artist or the listener but for the vast majority of society a whole, whether you choose to believe it or not. And as stated if you don’t then you clearly suffer from some sort of cognitive dissonance or live in such deep denial that your entire life is one massive cope.
Here are a couple of prime examples of just why i love this release. Both of these quotes come from the opening track The Law of Asbestos:
The scaffolding holding the bread from their mouthsas it rouses the worker to sell themselves short.
Both foundation and corner-stone
and entirely bereft of support.
If I drink Tollen’s reagent, will I finally shine inside?
And will I see myself as God sees me
If I pour it in my eyes?
Pour it in my eyes.
Or this gem later in the song:
Always three months to the gutter.
Never three months to the peak.
Another day to grind your fingers for the simple right to eat.
Always three months to the gutter. Never three months to the crown.
Another deep breath of asbestos in a godforsaken town.
Always three months to the gutter. Never three months to the top.
Another set of fucking homeless spikes outside another empty shop.
Always three months to the gutter. Never three months to ascent.
This is not a house of amateurs. This is done with full intent
Or this verse from Plattenbau Persephone Praxis:
The white noise is wasting me.
A thousand spinning plates and nobody’s doing the dishes.
Breathe in, the body rises; exhale and the mind sinks.
Cloying brains brought back from the brink,
another stimulant, another drink.
With coffee-stained nerves and finger-stained keys
furrowing digital fields, hands lashed to the plough
let it be this; let it be now.
Searching for meaning in the depths of the well,
in the wiring inside, in the ringing of bells.
As far as favorite songs go, track 1 The Law of Asbestos and 3 Plattenbau Persephone Praxis are my two favorites. Track one happens to be my favorite overall though due to it being the rawest and nosy emotionally intense on the album. It addresses some heavy topics and at times the vocals are truly amazing. As shown above the lyrics on the song are impressively intense. Track 3 also stands out to me due to the incredibly catchy violin on the track which worms its way into your brain. Again, as show above there are also some fantastic lyrics on this track.
In total I listened to this album at least 16 times in a two-week period after finally finding out that it had been released. Somehow, I managed to only find it three weeks after it came out, a sin that I must personally stone for. Even now I still find myself coming back to it at least once every few days and have yet to become Evan vaguely bored by it. So, I implore you, please take the time and give this masterpiece the attention that it truly deserves.
Listen to and order the album: