|#FOR FANS OF: Black/Doom
During its over a decade of existence, the Swiss project Ashtar hasn’t been particularly active, as it has only released two albums until 2023. But as it usually happens, the quality has more importance than the quantity, and this formerly duo released two interesting albums which were worth of our time. And I say formerly, as since 2022 Ashtar has been reduced to a solo project as the Finnish musician Lehtinen is out of the band. As a consequence of this, Nadine Lehtinen, as known as ‘Witch N’ will take the duties of composing and releasing the upcoming albums, while the last offer, entitled 'Wandering Through Time', has yet been composed by the original duo.
As it happened with this predecessor 'Kaikuja', the new opus is released by the well-known label Eisenwald. Ahstar’s musical formula is an interesting combination of black and doom metal. Nadine’s vocals have a distinctive black metal touch, as they are raspy and high-pitched. Pace-wise the music is undoubtedly influenced by the slower rhythm so common in the doom metal genre, while the guitar riffs have a mix of both genres, tending to a sound closer to one or another genre depending on each moment. When we talk about the pace, a song like "Deep Space and High Waters" clearly tends to a sound more doomish as it has a more mid-paced structure, although Ashtar tries to vary the pace of the track as it advances just to avoid sounding predictable and too monotonous. In any case, as the album goes on, the tracks are more heavily influenced by doom metal as their pace is slower and the riffs sound even more crushing. A clear example of it, is the long album closer "I Want to Die", which is actually a cover by Post Mortem, but it perfectly reflects how the album sounds. The first half of this effort, on the other side, is a bit more diverse in terms of structure and pace, as the black metal influence here is a bit stronger. This successfully adds some energy in the compositions, as in the aforementioned third track, but especially in the first two songs. The second track, entitled "The Submerged Empire", is my favorite one. The guitar work is excellent with some addictive melodies and the second half of this track contains some interesting surprises. For example, a remarkably beautiful violin interlude which is totally unexpected. This calmer and more delicate section is followed by a heavier one, which suddenly gains a lot of speed and fury. This ferocious final section is ended by a second and equally beautiful apparition of the violin which ends the song in style.
In conclusion, 'Wandering Through Time' is a solid effort which would be a more inspired and interesting album, if the second half of the album would contain more diversity in its pace and a stronger black metal influence, as it can be heard in the first tracks. I honestly think that Ashtar’s music benefits itself from this more balanced mixture as it sounds more captivating. (Alain González Artola)
(Eisenwald - 2023)