Ashtar is the new project of Marko Lehtinen, drummer of Swiss psychedelic stoner rock act Phased, and Witch N., formely bassist, violinist and backing vocalist, of Swiss doom/death band shEver. With Ashtar, the two members move closer to the doom metal edge, along with a fair amount of black metal influence and sludge extensions.
The debut album of Ashtar, Ilmassari, is built around the doom weight. Heavy riffs continuously come down, as the band travels through different modes. The switch to stonerized doom moments in “She Was A Witch” and the sludge injections to the already heavy methodology shine in “Celestial,” “Moons” and “Collide.” And as is expected, along the heavy riffs come the repetitive patterns, constantly grinding. In some cases these parts are able to give a sick, twisted jam session with the circling riffs producing a morbid feeling, for example in “Celestial” and the middle part of “These Nights Will Shine On.”
Then there is also the black metal side of Ashtar, coming in very early in this album with the atmosphere of the opening track radiating a cold, detached aura. The riffology soon starts to point to that direction as well, with “Moons” switching comfortably between the sludge sound to an aggressive black metal outbreak. What is very nicely done however is the manner in which Ashtar can move through the different tempos, approaching the black metal parts with speed and fury, while meeting the doom riffs with groove and energy, in “Moons” for instance, or with a ritualistic quality in “Celestial.”
Label: Throne Records available in the CVLT Nation Bizarre
The one track that I find to really stand out in this album is “These Nights Will Shine On,” for its very good merge of black metal and doom. By far one of the most ambitious moments of the album, alongside the spacious “Celestial,” it provides an outstanding moment, where the fury and eerie aspects of black metal can exist within a doom setting, as the leads add more emotion and despair to a tremendous track. What is also very nicely done in this album is the construction of ambiance, through means of enriching the background. Simple additions such as the whispers in the opening track can go a long way, while the inclusion of some clean, creeping melodies in “She Was A Witch” and “Celestial” give more depth to the track. However, the most complete moment, in terms of ambiance and instrumentation, has to be the final track of the album, “Collide” seeing the inclusion of violin and the peaceful background setting the stage perfectly for the sludge weight that will soon come.
Ilmasaari is a solid album, revealing a band that has a great grasp on doom metal and uses interesting methods to enhance the basis of their sound. However, it is tracks such “These Nights Will Shine On” and “Collide” that really shine and tell of an even greater future that will arrive, hopefully soon.