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Ahamkara: The Embers of the Stars

There must be something in the water in Newcastle-on-Tyne. This area of northern England has bestowed upon the world both Venom and Skyclad, and now in the age of modern decay, it appears another musical entity has arisen to etch its name upon the annals of metal history. Ahamkara, which according to Wikipedia means 'one of the four parts of the inner organ' in Hindu lore, was created by Michael Blenkarn, the keyboardist of the godly Wodensthrone. He and vocalist Steve Black released their first full length album, entitled The Embers of the Stars in February of this year on the mystical Bindrune Recordings label.

Anyone familiar with Blenkarn's day job will know to expect powerful atmospheric black metal music, short on Satan but long on the more realistic philosophies of inner longing, contemplation of the mysteries of Nature and folkore, and the awe these feelings inspire. Musically not a whole hell of a lot removed from the ilk of Wodensthrone, countrymen Winterfylleth, and this relatively new host of blast-beat and tremolo driven non-Satanic black metal styled extremity, fans can expect quality of the highest order.

The four songs on the album span about 48 minutes, thus each track averages around 10:00 minutes in length. They fly by, however, and a few times I was surprised to find myself at the end of the album, hoping it would go on. With a wonderful ear for dynamics, Ahamkara keeps the tension high as their blistering passages of fury are broken up by wind and ocean sounds, dreamlike guitar passages, atmospheric keys, and massive drums. The soloing in 'Midwinter's Hymn' around the seven minute mark is reminiscent of Agalloch, but when the blasts return it's the adroit bass guitar which takes center stage, rolling and picking along with the keyboard laced riffing like some black metal Steve Harris. In fact, the entire back half of this song encapsulates what atmospheric black metal is all about. Entrancing and flawless, I wonder if Blenkarn realizes exactly how high he's raising the bar for the rest of his bandmates in Wodensthrone for their next one.

Each song on the album continues the feeling invoked by the last one, with some atmospheric keyboard drenched moments such as in 'Lamentation of A Wraith,' which leads into the powerful 'To Invoke the Stars Themselves.' A cinematic intro featuring the sound of waves breaking leads the listener along, captivating in its approach. The song builds as slowly as mounting fear before the first blow is struck in war. When the music hits, it hits like a hammer blow. And while this is always a plus in black metal, one finds oneself longing for perhaps more of a measured beginning, such as those Primordial is known for on some of their longer epics. No matter, though, because once the listener connects with the riffs layered behind the blast, they are helplessly caught. The pedal is in the floorboards until 6:30, when an Opeth-like suite of psychedelic playing rises above rich keyboard tones, slowing the pace for some emotionally screamed verses to come in. You'd think it would be hard to convey so much feeling in the glacial, howled tones of the vocalist, but he manages it. Think of the style used in Winterfylleth, Nine Covens, and Wodensthrone, for reference. A most ballad-like solo follows, as Ahamkara showcase much more talent than that required for a proficiency in black metal. Blasts and solos return much later in the song, along with a feeling of triumphant mastery which is truly breathtaking to hear.

Ahamkara have dropped a mighty platter of goodness upon our heads with The Embers of the Stars. Adherents to extreme music in all its forms would do well to pay attention, as within its roiling passages, Ahamkara have a little something for everyone going on here. A few months shy of 2015's mid point, this is definitely a contender for album of the year.

Track listing:
1. Midwinter's Hymn
2. On The Shores of Defeat
3. Lamentation of a Wraith
4. To Invoke the Stars Themselves

Added: May 6th 2015
Reviewer: Nicholas Franco
Related Link: Ahamkara Bandcamp page
Hits: 1811
Language: english

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