“Broken limbs bound to funeral pyres, torches lit, skyward, ceremonious light for the damned, the lord is now upon you” begins They Became the Falling Ash as it takes you on an hour-long journey. This second full-length from Ethereal Shroud, or rather Joe Hawker, from Isle of Wight, is sure to impress in just three tracks. This album is released from Grimoire Cassette Cvlture and Northern Silence Records, in their respective formats.
Hawker’s 8-year effort shows a combination of funeral doom and atmospheric black in its sound, along with the fantastic “necro” sound, which usually lacks in atmospheric black releases of late. Highly reverberated vocals combined with the incredible guitar tone pushes you into a realm of its own and captivates you, with no intention of release, until Hawker decides it is time to let you go.
This incredible journey includes three tracks whose duration are definitely worthy of a funeral doom tag. The main problem is, though, that they never get boring! You finish the album before you realize it, leaving you abandoned and wishing that you kept that auto-reverse/repeat on. First track, “Look upon the Light,” starts with a gloomy atmosphere, with unending strings helping to convey the despair in a very traditional funeral doom sense. It doesn’t stay on this for very long, and moves into a great amalgamation of slow and fast until Hawker comes in with his voice and drags you into the emptiness of it all. A full-blown attack follows, keeping the song flowing. While the track is a fairly long one, it never gets old – it always moves forward. I am especially impressed by the loopy rhythm parts in the middle, where the melody steps back for several minutes, and allows you to explore whichever hell you are in. After this relatively short breather followed by a slower-paced expedition, the track comes back in all its grandeur. This is where the anguish leaves its place to anger until the inevitable bleakness returns. The exchange between two moods ends the piece before the hatred that is to come shortly with the second track, “Desperation Hymn.” The mood drastically changes with the second piece, albeit the soundscape remains the same. The track doesn’t leave you any room to breathe, and the animosity just builds up continuously, which then turns into a fixation. I am amazed at how skilfully Hawker uses a single note in the middle of the piece for the required effect, before going into a lyrically depressive/suicidal black metal-influenced plea for pain. The track ceases with the now-familiar combination of doomy pace under a haunting melody. Third track, “Echoes in the Snow,” brings in the beginning atmosphere only summarily before taking a shape of its own. The use of cleaner tones at the beginning provides a fresh view, and the piece moves ahead on a despondent journey. You can feel the woeful end approaching, and the imminent demise comes as it all began, with a funeral atmosphere.
This album was apparently an eight-year process, but I would say eight years well spent! Even though it’s only Ethereal Shroud’s second release, you can sense the maturity in his composition and the impeccable atmosphere he created. Hawker certainly handles different emotions in the album beautifully. They Became the Falling Ash is one of those rare hours you wish never ends.