Castevet have got something tremendously original going on. Mounds of Ash appropriates the melodic landscape of ambient black metal but eschews the droning passivity. Instead, Castevet present us with a rhythmically engaging experience that draws just as much from the world of noisecore as it does from frostbitten grimness. Melancholy ricochets off rage to produce a palpable tension, and that conflict manifests as pure auditory joy.
Andrew Hock's fascinating guitar riffs move between the comforting swarm of black metal, dissonant hardcore and haunting minor-chord arpeggiations. All the while, Ian Jacyszyn and Josh Scott churn up a polyrhythmic maelstrom. The result is frenetically tactile; this is the kind of album that makes you want to pound on the steering wheel, bang on your desk or just plain bang your head.
Andrew Hock's guitar melodies convey a serious melancholy, but the rhythm section never lets us mope or dwell on that sadness. In many ways, this dichotomy brings to mind the glory of Anodyne (bassist Josh Scott was also in that band) and the spirit that Mike Hill morphed into Tombs. “Wreathed in Smoke” is a prime example of this tension; the semi-acoustic arpeggiation might taste of sadness, but Ian Jacyszyn's drumming doesn't let you soak in it. Along the way, brass slowly enters the sonic field, then everything fades away and the horns stand alone to end the track. This somber intonation sounds exactly like the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant siren (only a few miles from my house), and that's more disquieting to me than you can imagine.
Andrew Hock's vocals are fantastic; each line rips from his throat in a cathartic rage. I saw this band live before hearing the album, so I can't but help visualize the brutal tremors that seemed to wrack the man's body as he expelled these vocal demons. This brings me to my only gripe with Mounds of Ash; there are no printed lyrics. I've seen mention of this in a few places, but when so much effort goes into the atmosphere of an album, you damn well bet I want to know what they're singing about.
The production on Mounds of Ash is of exceptional quality. This is by far my favorite of Colin Marston's recordings. The guitars are perfectly balanced against the rhythmic insanity that pervades the album, and Josh Scott's rabid bass lines have the perfect amount of space to smack you around.
Mounds of Ash is a success to my ears on several levels; these tunes are interesting and memorable, while the turgid rhythmic undertow demands your full attention throughout. The album clocks in at just under 40 minutes, and this is a perfectly digestible dose of dissonance for me. I'm definitely looking forward to Castevet's future output, and I'm excited to see them again live.