Just because a band plays underground black metal, it doesn’t mean their records have to sound like shit. Whilst there’s an undeniable appeal to raw and necro productions, there’s also something to be said for records where you can clearly hear what is being played clearly, rather than through a later of dirt and filth. Ashes Of The Empyrean, the latest album from Florida’s Promethean Horde, is a prime example of this. Well produced but still retaining a harsh, underground edge, Ashes Of The Empyrean is sure to appeal to anyone who likes their black metal to trace its lineage to the second wave and posses a sense of melody, whilst also having hints of thrash, death, and traditional heavy metal.
Whilst second wave influences abound and are apparent, Ashes Of The Empyrean is not a record that is content to simply imitate others. For every blasting, tremolo-picked section of northern darkness, there are other, more unusual and original ideas that are not typically found in black metal of this ilk. There are some wonderful bass lines and clean guitar sections that are more typically associated with tech-death, and the usual of clean baritone vocals adds extra gravitas and atmosphere to certain tracks. These are techniques that are not over-used either, meaning that they do not lose their effectiveness or over-shadow the fact that this is a thoroughly black metal album. That said, it’s easy to imagine the clean vocals not being to everyone’s tastes; there is something a bit rough around the edges about them, which both works in their favour and against them – they don’t always quite hit the heights they reach for, but they avoid the problem of coming across as over-produced, which is often an issue with clean vocals in black metal.
Don’t let this distract you from the fact that the majority of Ashes Of The Empyrean is comprised of brutal, blasting, slightly melodic black metal though. And it is black metal that does not forget some of the things that make metal great – such as guitar solos, energy, and power. The drumming is especially important in this regard, constantly moving the album forward, and “Bring Forth The Fires” even opens with a group shout of “hey!” that is decidedly un-kvlt, but probably kicks up a storm live. That Promethean Horde have played alongside a whole host of extreme metal bands of varying styles comes as no surprise. This is an album that has a lot of appeal outside the typical black metal underground, and it wouldn’t be a big surprise if one of the larger metal labels took an interest in these guys. There’s still a bit of refinement to be done – the album is a touch too long to be as effective as it could be – but there is a hell of a lot of promise to Promethean Horde, and Ashes Of The Empyrean is a very strong début album.
Ashes Of The Empyrean can be downloaded and streamed via Bandcamp. CD copies can also be ordered through Bandcamp.