Ashore The Celestial Burden
Review by Nathan on January 1, 2022.
There are many ways that a metal band can make their music appealing to the listener. The band can incorporate catchy riffs and hooks into their songs. They can dazzle you with their amazing instrumental prowess. They can push their music to extremes people never thought were possible. They can attempt to create atmosphere by overusing keyboards and synths and the like. But Dark Millennium does none of these things on Ashore The Celestial Burden. Instead, they make music that is dark, monolithic and answers to no one, much like the celestial bodies themselves.
But what does this monstrous representation of the stars sound like? Well, this is some doom metal mixed in with some old school death metal, which ends up sounding like a Morbid Angel/Pentagram hybrid of sorts, or perhaps a doomier version of Atheist. However, this was released in the early 90s, and death metal still wasn’t fully removed from its thrash roots yet, so this album also has some thrashy undertones to it- this works very well for the album because it gives it a little more variety and edge in its sound. Not that it really needed much variety - this is a chaotic, unpredictable album to begin with. Despite the “doom” tag, this album has a decent amount of faster sections that resemble death/thrash metal more than anything, and they spring upon you when you least expect them for seemingly no other reason than to keep you on your toes. Just as you’re settling into the dark, eerie plodding of one of the doomier parts of the album, a razor-sharp thrashy section will break out and snap your eyes wide open, almost as if the album was grabbing you, shaking you by the shoulders and yelling “YOU STILL PAYING ATTENTION???” in your face. Normally I look down upon such rapid speed and style changes, as it doesn’t really allow the music to flow properly and it’s hard to establish any feeling towards the music as a result. But these guys managed to pull it off, simply because of the kickass guitar work. The riffs on here are intricate enough that they can play around with a lot of different styles and speeds and such without the central feel of the album really changing. One thing that makes this easier to accomplish for them is the emphasis of dissonance in a good deal of the melodies. Not only do they give the album a more “evil” feel, but the additional element in the guitar makes it easier for the melodies to work with the various styles and tempos of the music. Variety blends well with variety (So much for that bullshit about opposites attracting.)
With just one glance at the album title and artwork (and the beginning of this review), it’s easy to figure out what the atmosphere on Ashore The Celestial Burden is going to represent: The unholy void of space. And let me say right away, they fucking nailed it right on the head. How did they manage to do it? Because they don’t just throw a shitload of keyboards in a feeble attempt to create an “epic” feel like so many bands do. Rather, they use their core components (guitars, vocals, and so on and so forth) to give the album a dark, “spacey” vibe. And even on the rare occasion that they do use keyboards, they do it PERFECTLY! Just listen to the creepy ending of 'Black Literature'. It’s quite simply one of the best uses of keyboards in metal I’ve ever heard in my life. It shows up, allows you to take a quick break from the nasty metal that preceded it, it fits the mood of the album to a “T”, and then it goes as fast as it came. It doesn’t need to drag on for minutes because it did its job in seconds. Even though the keyboards are done incredibly well, I’m glad they only make a couple of cameos, because using them more often would ruin their novelty, in a way.
It seems I’ve only mentioned the vocals indirectly so far. I don’t understand why it’s taken me so long to say something about them, because they rule. Far from the pitch-shifted guttural nonsense that plagues way too many bands nowadays, these vocals actually sound like genuine harsh raspy growls, with the occasional use of lower, modern death metal-esque growls. They’re a bit different, sure, and at first they’re a hurdle you have to get past, but once you do they make the music all that much better. Plus, the lyrics are very easy to understand- something that you almost never hear about a death metal band. It’s a good thing, too, because these are some great lyrics.
Dark Millennium does not crave your attention. They do not try to make music that is accessible in any way. This will not jump out at you, and force you to listen to it repeatedly until you get sick of it. No, just like all the greatest treasures, it must be sought out - you must go to it, and only then will you be able to appreciate the subtle beauty that lurks inside the 55 minutes of this album. It may take a few listens, or maybe a few hundred, but as long as you just give the album a chance and let yourself be taken in by the grand darkness that is Ashore The Celestial Burden, you may find yourself with a delightful treat.
Rating: 9.1 out of 10317