Head-Banger Reviews

A concept album is sometimes the best kind of album in my experience as they always seem to bring out the best in so many bands from all sorts of genres and styles, and Ashen Horde only reinforces that statement as their upcoming album “Nine Plagues” is a solid horror metal piece that tells the tales of “inhabitants of a small village as they are invaded and forced into an unforgiving winter wasteland, and with each song details a different ‘plague’ that befalls the refugees” (according to their Facebook, anyway). Each track is a great piece of what is definitely progressive black metal, but Ashen Horde manages to shove so much into so little and it works so it doesn’t sound completely forced compared to how some other bands do their thing. And every single moment is filled with an absolutely aggressive energy that does not let up which really shows the brutality of how the villagers have to struggle to survive, the bloody events that occur every single day, and the weakening will of the ones who are unlucky enough to witness the atrocities. All 9 tracks are lengthy, enticing, have a great feel to them, and are so cross-genre that it bothers me to only call it progressive black metal as “Nine Plagues” goes so far as to include even a little bit of grindcore into its style to spice things up a little bit. Oh yeah, and did I fail to mention that Ashen Horde is a one-man band? Whoops, should’ve said that because that’s awesome. And even though “Nine Plagues” doesn’t come out until December 15th, you should still keep your eye out for the album because it is certainly something different to check out for sure.

Metal Addicts

Extreme metal is such an all encompassing phrase for several sub-genres of metal that some bands can only be defined solely as extreme metal, and one such band is Ashen Horde as their upcoming album “Nine Plagues” combines elements of death, black, and prog metal along with a tinge of grindcore to create a truly raw album that holds nothing back.“Nine Plagues” even goes as far as to incorporate horror metal into the mix and making the album about the story of the inhabitants of a small village as they are invaded and forced into an unforgiving winter wasteland, and with each song details a different “plague” that befalls the refugees. Definitely something that one genre along cannot encompass for sure, and Ashen Horde hits the nail square on the head with this album as everything is done as well it could possibly be. The vocals are very much akin to those of black metal to blackened death which gives all of “Nine Plagues” an intense feel to it that is only amplified by the powerful guitars which is where I believe the grindcore makes its occasional appearance. Then the drums are just all over the place as they have a wicked beat throughout each and every track which keeps the music all the more alive and does not let a single dull moment to come up not even once. Overall, Ashen Horde have done a very nice job with “Nine Plagues” as they manage to mash so much together and actually make it sound good without it even seeming difficult, not to mention it being a great concept album as well.

The Path Less Traveled Records

Hollywood, CA is the home of movie stars, fake tits, plenty of sunshine, and home to the great Ashen Horde.  The first release was the EP Ab Initio was released in 2013.  A solid debut by the one-man band showcasing a solid understanding of death metal as well as a few melodic touches here and there.  This EP is 4 songs long and provided a glimpse into the great mind of Trevor Portz.  While great, it doesn’t compare to the absolutely brilliant and essential new full-length Sanguinum Vindicta.

Drawing influence from the crème de la extreme, Ashen Horde celebrates the darker side of metal in all its grim glory. Inspired by bands ranging from Vintersorg to Enslaved, and Tulus to Strapping
Young Lad, this is blackened prog-metal art at its finest. It’s technical and crushing, yet at times darkly melodic.  On Sanguinum Vindicta, there is extreme emphasis on the word ‘melodic’.

The one two punch of “Midwinter’s Lust” and “Baited Breath” will have you banging your head and hitting repeat again and again.  The opening riff to “Baited Breath” packs more melody than most cock rock on the radio, all the while keeping it’s trve status for those who care about such things (I don’t).  The riff takes on various forms throughout the song and brings it back to the original riff by songs end.  This song is an instant classic to my ears.

But that’s not all!  There are 8 more songs of progressive, melodic, brutal metal to be heard and it’s all spectacular.  “Smoke and Shadows” kicks of with a brilliant blast beat/melodic riff that reminds me of a slick lick that Behemoth would create.  “Mind Over Matter” keeps things moving at a frantic pace and slamming home that melody with intense tremolo picking.  It reminds of something Napalm Death would have created in their Diatribes days (only this riff is better than anything on that album).

I could go on and on about each song, but I think you get the idea.  I have seen a few blog posts here and there about Ashen Horde, but not enough.  This album will be in my Top 10 of the year and has absolutely no label support and is all self-funded and released by Trevor.

Absolutely brilliant.

Go to the Ashen Horde Bandcamp and you can buy Sanguinum Vindicta for $10 or you can chip in an extra $3 (or more) and receive both the Sanguinum Vindicta and Ab Initio on fantastic looking CD’s.  It will be the best $13 you’ve spent in ages.

Dead Rhetoric

Ever wondered what Strapping Young Lad would sound like through a black metal filter? Listen to “Midwinter’s Loss” and “Midwinter’s Lust” and wonder no more! Perhaps a slight stretch, but the SYL influence is clear. Ashen Horde is a one-man band that plays some pretty intense thrash-inspired darkness. The upfront drum programming does aid in this wall of sound that pulls Ashen Horde away from most traditional black metal. Occasionally, some of the cold, black metal aesthetic rears its head, most prominently in the raspy vocals. There are some interesting melodies to be found without breaking any character as well, such as in “Smoke and Mirrors.” You can’t go wrong with this one if you are looking for some frenetic black metal that isn’t afraid to cross-pollinate.

Chronicles of Chaos

Hollywood, California would probably be the last place on the Northen hemisphere one would expect a decent black metal act to hail from; well, that and probably Afghanistan. Nevertheless, Ashen Horde is, for all intents and purposes, a decent black metal band, and that in itself is an accomplishment, given the legion of black metal bands active nowadays, here, there and everywhere, most of which either don't know what they are doing or have absolutely no face of their own.

A one-man act, Ashen Horde is the brainchild and musical manifestation of one Trevor Ports, a multi-instrumentalist whose other bands, namely Fetal Hymen and Bite Wound are a mystery to the writer of these very lines; so with virtually zero biography and 'heritage' we hit the road with Ashen Horde's debut full-length album, almost 48 minutes of relentless black metal with a progressive touch incorporated into the hectic and violently fast played riffs.

_Sanguinum Vindicta_ (something like "Blood Vengeance" is Latin) is an interesting album, to say the least. Opening a rift between black metal's basic and raw roots and more exquisite, riff-conscious, progressive elements, this album floats right in the middle, in this wonderful limbo where anything is possible.

Blast beats enamored, this album is extremely fast where it generates a wall of noise, only to be torn down by actual and quite complex guitar playing, establishing short-lived riffs and interesting note progression. The blasts are kept at precise portions and are unleashed exactly in the right places; a rewarding musical decision, because it enables the music to become more dynamic and poignant, convincing the listener Mr. Portz knows his bread-and-butter where it comes to violent, sharp, hateful black metal, where those vitriolic moments are mostly needed.

Those hyper speed moments have not been forsaken; most of the time they are complemented by slower guitar passages, intricate song structures and unorthodox tempos. The music is insanely fast at times; the guitar and drums play then and there at breakneck velocity, and even then -- at those points of weakness -- the progressive complexity isn't compromised, as if playing at 100 BPMs or 250 BPMs makes no difference whatsoever; you'd still hear the very same patterns, never mind the velocity.

The riffs vary from Middle Eastern to distinctively metallic sonic hatred bearing somewhat of a black 'n' roll etiquette, using an organic sounding guitar effect that washes everything with dark warmth. Given the fact the dirty, gritty bass is ever present and everything is tuned down to the lower frequencies (meaning also no traditional tremolo playing techniques were used), some of the riffs own an ominous death metal vibe; as a matter of fact, if the vocals were even a notch lower, this would be quite great a death metal album nobody would have complained about.

_Sanguinum Vindicta_ belongs both to the school of insanely fast black metal bands for whom blast beats were invented, and to the kind of bands whose progressive stamp is carefully embedded into the fabric of their dissonance and distortion, without letting the listener choose which facet of the album he/she likes more, whether the progressive aspirations or the parading maelstrom of swirling, monochromatic and hateful guitars. That is to say, whether you are a Sammath fan or an Enslaved fan, you wouldn't have to choose between the former's _Godless Arrogance_ or the latter's _Below the Lights_; both albums are kind of represented here simultaneously, with an extra twist of dark essence courtesy of the sun-baked land of California.

Even though the tracks don't differ too much from one another, there's a sense of wholeness to the recording, as if it was a concept album comprising one long track of epic tales. The vocals are, by no means, the typical high-pitched screech nor are they anywhere around that; although not processed per se, they are half whispered and somewhat hollow, allowing a mechanical, industrial edge to be taking over the recording, where machine-like precision adds its own punch to the austere, cold facade. Regardless, _Sanguinum Vindicta_ still retains an organic feel; like something naturalistic and primordial but with a human touch, cleverly maneuvering this gargantuan dark ship across malevolent seas that allow some short lived, infinitesimal moments of bliss and tranquility amidst the storm.

_Sanguinum Vindicta_ is a good album with a heightened sense of melody and musical craftsmanship like you wouldn't believe, coming from Hollywood, of all places. It's the crest of American black/death metal created by an intelligent composer whose talent to write ultra-violent-yet-engaging songs is on par with his ability to master the various instruments he uses on this recording (and that includes the naturally sounding, complex drum programming), and whose influences are as obvious as is his skill to eventually sound totally unique and inventive. 

Metalholic

Sanguinum Vindicta is the latest release by Ashen Horde, a black metal singularity from Hollywood. It serves as the second chapter to a bleak fantasy tale.  The Ab Initio EP is the first chapter. Sanguinum Vindicta is a decidedly dark and compelling epic.  Track by track, or page by page if you will, I found myself wanting to hear what came next.  Where was this tale going to go?

Self-described as “blackened prog-metal art at its finest,” Ashen Horde is black metal at its core.  I get it, though.  That’s exactly what this album is.  I also see that as a nod of respect to black metal. Ashen Horde is a one-man project from the desolate, wintery depths of… L.A?  I am pretty sure the only forest in L.A. is one full of silicon implanted, soul sucking beasts.  It is a land of desecration, filled with tortured broken spirits and tattered dreams.  In the raining embers of burned hope rises Ashen Horde.

One-man projects are often deficient in some ways.  Not so in this case.  Trevor Portz lacks nothing in any aspect.  The musicianship is clear with each instrument and the song writing is adroit.  I cannot tell you if Trevor played drums or if it is a drum machine.  Either way, it took skill to pull this off.*   The vocals are a nice, harsh blend of scream and raspy filth – refreshing to these ears.

Sanguinum Vindicta is not just for black metal fans.  It is for extreme metal fans.  This is an album that really deserves to be heard.  Go to the Bandcamp page at http://ashenhorde.bandcamp.com and give the album a spin.  Buy it for $7 (you can also order a CD version for $10 via the band’s Bandcamp or Facebook) then go click Like on the Facebook page.  I hope Trevor keeps it up after chapter three is released.  I will be interested to see what twists and turns could come as this tale reaches its conclusion.

*After this was written, I found out Trevor programmed the drums.  How?  I asked.  Novel idea, I know.  Do not let that sway you from giving this a spin.  I assure you I could not tell (you may be more adept at such things), and it took some mad skillz to pull off what he did.  Bravo!

Rating 8.5/10

Hardrock Haven

For some reason—OK, many good ones—Black Metal bands seem to write about “winter.” And not a Frosty the Snowman type winter, but an “everything is dead and bleak” Samhain sort of winter. New band Ashen Horde nods at those classic stereotypes on the opening track and closing track, but the rest of the album is a bit of a new spin on what you’d expect from a Black Metal band … in a good way.

“Midwinter’s Lust” has the elements you’d expect from Black Metal, and the frenzied riffs and manic vocals boil the blood. And while the band is one man, Trevor Portz, the fact he pulls off something that seamlessly sounds like a full unit will impress anyone. He’s also the lyricist, and Sanguinum Vindicta offers a narrative thread that you’ll have to follow the lyrics to understand. (The title translates into “bloody vengeance” so there’s a good hint for you …)

“Baited Breath” owns one of the coolest riffs you’ll ever hear on a Black Metal composition. In fact, it’s so good, you’ll hear almost the exact chord progression later on the track “Trail of Blood.” By now, the female antagonist has morphed from an earthly goddess into a monster filled with self-loathing, and at the end of the song, the question she faces is “to die a self-inflicted martyr or live a life of failed revenge.” The chunky riffing, followed by musical passages of searing speed, circle back to that riff to end the best song on the album.

Portz has a bit of a sense of humor, even on a Black Metal release, and “Mind Over Slaughter” is one way he shows it. That’s just the title, though. This is one of the most brutal compositions on the release, and he matches the violent music with lyrics like “She touches her victim, seemingly lifeless, with every systole she salivates … a single taste of withered flesh, a surge of power in every cell.” Like Cannibal Corpse, Ashen Horde isn’t afraid to give biology lessons lyrically.

Things get otherworldly on “The Burden of Sorrow,” and more so on “Trail of Blood,” with passages like “hidden deep under shredded victims … she sees the marching horrors, an army dead, but living on,” and “as darkness slams the moonlight, shaded by a thousand leather wings.” The antagonist, who goes back and forth between wanting to die or wanting to destroy the entire world had her decision made for her.

When you get to “The Gauntlet,” again, this movie is painted with painful lyrics and a bludgeoning soundtrack, the main character decides to turn savior again and control the abomination she released upon the world. It all ends full circle on the throbbing, bleak “Midwinter’s Loss,” and how do you think Black Metal stories will end?

Sanguinum Vindicta is an impressive semi-debut from Ashen Horde. (The band put out an EP earlier.) Longtime fans of Black Metal may wonder where the hell this band has been, because in any genre, things can become formulaic, while Ashen Horde certainly isn’t. Even from a production standpoint, everything shines although you may not want to see the landscape Portz has painted in entrails, corpses and congealed blood for you. On that note, if you are a fan of this type of extreme music, especially one with a story to tell, Sanguinum Vindictashould be your jam. It is also unique enough to entice those who veer away from the extreme sounds of Black Metal too.

Hardrock Haven rating: 8/10

The Heavy Metal Tribune

Out of USA comes yet another blistering black metal band Ashen Horde, with their debut full length album Sanguinum Vindicta. One-man black metal bands have always fascinated me in the ways they are able to create destructive soundscapes, especially with bands such as Benighted in Sodom even exploring a whole range of sounds with just one person behind the band.

Ashen Horde immediately hits the listener fast and furious with opener Midwinter’s Lust, and one is immediately reminded of Marduk‘s Panzer Division Marduk-era, with the speed and intensity that is displayed by band mastermind, Trevor Portz. The heavily trem-picked and double-pedal-fuelled track creates an apocalyptic soundscape, and the belligerent sound of Ashen Horde easily leaves a trail of dead bodies in its wake.

However, the progressive nature of the band shows up soon enough. Just as one expects Sanguinum Vindicta to be a mindless, aggressive, high-octane album, the band takes things a notch slower on Baited Breath, but instead throws in a pinch of dissonance into their playing, not unlike French bands such as Deathspell Omega or even the later, experimental works of Mayhem. The intensity is not reduced as all, as the dissonance and the unpredictability on Sanguinum Vindicta keeps the listener on the edge at all times, and just as one expects the band to slow things down even further, Ashen Horde throws a curveball and goes blazing ahead in full speed.

Ashen Horde‘s debut has been one that is extremely enjoyable and unique in days where new releases are mostly rehashes of the old sound, with the whole myriad of sounds that the band has incorporated into the album. Sanguinum Vindicta is probably one of the more unique albums that I have encountered thus far in the year, proving once again what the twisted mind of a single individual is capable of producing.

Rating: ★★★★☆

From B to Zee

Here is the proof that, with a few ideas and a lot of talent, one can easily compose a perfect black metal album on his own! Indeed, Ashen Horde’s (aka. Trevor Portz) second LP is a masterpiece of destructive power, unpredictable variations and edifying strength. Thus, thinking that all of it is out of a single man’s (tortured?) soul is a huge listening pleasure.

Ashen Horde goes his own way among 5-or-6-members-full bands and tends to show that he is going to give them a painful headache. Impressively mixing Norway-influenced black (Midwinter’s LustSacrificial Devotion) and death metal tones (Baited BreathMind Over Slaughter), the composer literally sets fire to the totems of the genre and burn them to the ground to better give them a second birth. Incredible vocals (sometimes sounding like Dimmu Borgir’s Shagrath minus exaggeration and boring self-esteem), obvious progressive and successful experimental musical attempts (Mindwinter’s Loss) as well as astonishing heavy moments (Trail Of BloodThe Gauntlet) end up proving that Trevor Portz exactly knows what he is aiming for to create his personal style in the actual noisy disorder.

Sanguinum Vindicta is incredibly classy; a transcending, melodic and technically irreproachable album of high value. Dark and possessed, it leads us to the edge of a tumultuous and cold abyss where genius lightnings shine like funeral sparkles ready to enlighten the place. The violence contained in all 10 tracks of the record is wonderfully mastered by Trevor Portz, but, above all, accessible to everybody. Such a mix of inner-self vocals, eloquent guitar riffs and explosive drums blasts take each listener close to the cliffs of madness and insanity, ready to dive into the vicious circles of the human soul, in an untold darkness where unhealthy behaviors are eternally and inexorably opposite to mental balance, as we are all waiting to see which one is about to win the war. Ashen Horde stands for this ominous paradox we all have deep inside of us and asks us about the exit door we will choose to open, whatever it is.

Thus, this record is as excellent, insane and bright as anxious and innovative. The Sleeper must awaken…

Metal Disciple

So far this year there have only been a few albums that really excited me and made me eager to put fingers to keyboard. I know for a fact that there are a number of albums on the horizon that I am greatly anticipating, but for the moment things are kind of quiet. It is during these quiet times that my obsession to find new music makes me work a little harder to discover something interesting. I spend more time rifling through magazine ads and looking at other review sites. I pore over the promo requests in my email box. Eventually I stumble upon something that makes the search worthwhile. May I introduce you to Ashen Horde.

Ashen Horde is a one-man progressive black metal band hailing from one of the most unlikely black metal havens in the U.S. - Hollywood, California. I don’t normally look to the land of sunshine and movie stars for a dose of frozen malevolence (though Lightning Swords of Death are from L.A.) so when I first heard about Ashen Horde’s debut album, “Sanguinum Vindicta”, I must admit I was not expecting much.

When I pore over promo albums or listen to prospective review bands online, I tend to do so while multitasking with something else; rarely do I have the luxury to just sit and listen to music. So when I started listening to “Sanguinum Vindicta” I wasn’t really giving it my full attention. I often find myself listening to half an album that I dislike simply because I’m occupied doing something else and tune it out. At some point I will cringe and realize it is time to switch to something better. In this case, however, I got several tracks in when I realized, hey, I don’t hate this. 

While I wasn’t initially paying close attention to the songs, something about the quality was registering with me subconsciously, and when I finally turned my full attention back to the album, I realized I needed to go back to the beginning and start over. It didn’t take long to confirm my suspicion: Ashen Horde kills! 

Despite the fact that this is 2014, many black metal bands still feel compelled to make albums that sound thin and, well, shitty. Come on people, Euronymous has been dead for over twenty years; it is ok for black metal to grow up in the production department. Not everyone takes the old path, though, and some of those bands earn themselves the label of progressive black metal. Vreid is one of my favorites in the style. Ashen Horde seems to have joined the ranks of contemporary black metal visionaries that believe black metal can thrive with a solid production. 

The sound quality on “Sanguinum Vindicta” is quite good. There is none of the over-reverbed “atmosphere” that mediocre bands use to cover up their inadequacies. The musicianship displayed on this album also elevates it above much of its competition. The fact that Ashen Horde is the product of one man, Trevor Portz, leaves me even more impressed. 

“Sanguinum Vindicta” proves that you can play dark, evil sounding metal without giving up skill and clarity. The more I listen to the album, the more I like it. This is a debut album; I can’t wait to hear what albums two and three will sound like. The legions of metal should take note of Ashen Horde. Tune in below to hear the track “Smoke and Ashes.” 

Abysmal Hymns

Marching to cram 28 black metal reviews into the 28 days of black history month , we take a look at Ashen Horde's debut album. This one man band is pretty impressive for he attacks the songs with the kind of epic fury the guys in Immortal do. Rather than the arctic wasteland of the blizzard beast, he cranks this out in sunny Hollywood.

Off the bat this is more black metal than Lvcifyre, whose album I just reviewed. There is a thrash like under current that is also present in Immortals work as well, so since this is set up at the altar to the Sons of Northern Darkness, this comes as no surprise. There is more death metal or Behemoth like crunch at times on "Mind Over Slaughter".

The fast paced guitars come at you with a quick charge, however the songs are pretty well composed giving you time to catch your breath for a more dynamic ebb and flow than you might think you are going to get. The playing is also pretty technical at times, so if you are looking for cvlt hypnosis, this is not the album for you.It's remarkable that he is as skilled of a drummer as he is a guitarist.This guy also adhere to the cool riffs alone don't make good songs, but the almost 80's feel to the intro of "Baited Breath" shows he can write as killer of a riff as anyone. The more pummeling moments of the album like "Smoke and Shadows" suggests Emperor might be an influence as well, as their is the sort of organized chaos in the way the maelstrom of riffage is assembled then spit back out at you. 

The thrash thing rears its head high on "The Burden of Sorrow" with blasts interspersed to keep things black. One thing about this album is it deviates from black metal in the sense there is little ugliness or dissonance,which I find a defining characteristic of the genre and what separates it from death metal. So this is very death metal friendly and furthers the trend of blurring lines in this regard. The crunch to some of the riffs in "Midwinter's Loss" in awesome despite not being very black metal.

The vocals are really the albums only weak point, they get the job done and vary in degrees of rasp, sometimes recalling the more Immortal croak, though not like Inquisition does in this regard and gives the project more of it's own sense of identity because of this. The rasp often finds it's self in more Skeleton Witch range.The lyrics are not too obscured in the rasp, though they seem to fall into pretty typical metal stereotypes, rivers of carnage and varied forms of hellish ultra-violence are explored. Despite these factors this is still a very solid debut and I don't mind rounding it up to a 9, worth checking out if you are a thrash fan who has been on the fence about black metal.

Zware Metalen

[Translated from dutch via Google translate. Click the link for the original Ducth]: 

Ashen Horde is a new one-man black metal band from America . The man behind the scenes is called Trevor Portz , for whom it would be interesting . The man used to play in a band called Fetal Hymen , which explains the name Hetal Fymen as a pseudonym for the actual label . Or so.

What you hear on Sanguinum Vindicta (bloody revenge ) is pretty decent black metal with an unhealthy dose of aggression and brutality , including Swedish guitar riffs and some bold lines. The songs range from whipping ( Midvinter 's Lust , Smoke And Shadows ) to slightly progressive Norwegian ( baited breath, Anguished Prey ) . The drums are pretty well programmed and blow up the mess at constant linear , something that sometimes clashes with the depth that is brought by the solid riffs and atmospheric bass . A little halting between two opinions , which together are less than apart and still sound good . I can not rid myself of the impression that this guy can still make music more interesting than Sanguinum Vindicta . 

Score: 74/100

Faeton Music

Crazy progressive black metal band from Hollywood — Ashen Horde!

It’s like I drilling my brain.
Amazing!