Ashdautus - _Shadow Plays of Grief and Pain_
(Ixiol Productions, 2005)
by: T. DePalma (9 out of 10)
"I injected the positive with the serpentine smile. I ingested the negative with its poisonous bile..."

That hideous phantom screech; a genderless abomination of sound, as Ashadatus frontman Naeth wreaks terror from the red tissues of creation with wraith-like pitch and preternatural lure, I'm reminded of how music may become profound through the verve of performance. That how one plays is concomitant to why they play. In this, Ashdautus conveys the body itself as a weapon and instrument of war; suicidal, but that trope becomes imbibed with purpose that sets this apart from the waves of fabricated melancholy and on-stage blood-letting washed towards our feet by modern tides.

Ashdautus' link between performer and listener is neither composed purely of wanton sadism nor the voyeur's thirst for masochism; it's a form of stigmata: transference of pain through the intangible means of aural manipulation. It wounds with invisible claws, and I feel my throat burn as the minutes pass by. To awe is not always to enjoy, and Ashdautus leaves scant opportunity to label them otherwise, forcing new definitions through rediscovery. That mystery of why something compels us is the one truth art offers through all mediums and intents, but it's a question Ashdautus pose as a jealous ultimatum in this incipient work; offering a raw cut from the lineage of Darkthrone and Ildjarn, naked strength pursued within its own style, climactically rendering so much else inferior.

Though the sheer physicality of voices propels these skeletal compositions toward an epiphanic test of howl and din, there's a pith of direction in the ebb and flow of it all. Ectopic melodies are ornamented by pick scrapes and artificial harmonics blaring from the pitch-black chasm of medieval themed breaks ("As the Vile Must Digress"). This doesn't sound like the typical black metal album despite its compositional influence. Rhythm alters with less bounce and repetition between them, allowing the songs to appear more loose and improvised at times than they actually are ("Entourage of Apathy"). The intricacy and speed that these shifts occur at is closer to a mixture of rock and death metal theory blended with romanticism via rhythm / lead guitar combinations and actual black metal aesthetics located in chord structure.

All this is further compounded by the non-production on display. Contained within the venomous sweat pouring off the band's equipment, fulgent shrieks pierce through every intonation like a factitious lightning storm; the guitars sound like two Fender Jazzmasters fucking inside a moldy stone cellar, a sound of bondage feeding off its own horrible echo. Acoustic interludes delivered with agreeable fingerstyle technique and range of tempo alleviate the fusillade atmosphere, but don't entirely depart from the sentiment. Instead, from the introduction onward, these short breathes complement the full hammer and thrust of each preceding track, providing a tension like shadows underneath the door, a presence before the kill.

Still a young band, Ashdautus exhibit the skill and energy to become infamous, provided they have more to say. If black metal is the Holy Spirit to those beyond Yeshua's poison command, then _Shadow Plays of Grief and Pain_ approaches its terminal Pentecost; and it would be a shame to think that, like so many lost to time, this is the greatest extension of possibilities or that theirs should become a routine of yearly releases to cement a certain niche. The age demands not more but better -- no more botched evolution. For here is something special; it is nearly there. Let it have room to grow into that higher caste, patient as the shadows.


(article published 19/9/2005)

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