The blending of genres has always suited black metal and its seemingly endless forms. With an adaptable world such as metal there’s plenty of room to experiment, infuse, and play about. Canada’s most cathartic soul 鬼 has been one of metal’s most consistent forces, providing soaring, haunting and melancholic music filled with pensive beauty with Unreqvited and now, in a slightly different way, with The Ember, The Ash.

The Ember, The Ash started as a more straightforward spin-off to 鬼’s main project Unreqvited, with the sombre and cleansing nature of DSBM very present but in a darker more traditional shell. Debut release Consciousness Torn from the Void was a raw and blackened epic with more emphasis on the dark hues woven into the genre and far removed from the uplifting vibrance 鬼 delivers with Unreqvited.

The much-awaited sophomore album Fixation takes a bold and unflinching deviation away from the already established sound and launches The Ember, The Ash into a new world of possibilities and a genre-defining supernova of colliding styles. This explosion of sound brings a veritable showcase of metal flavors, from the ever-present metalcore and symphonic black metal to more mainstream influences. On Fixation 鬼 again delves into the consuming viscous shadow of mental health and its many jagged teeth, this time from the viewpoint of witnessing a loved one experience trauma. The album encompasses the many emotions associated with this, from devouring depression to suicidal thoughts and though it’s somewhat of a metamorphosis there are still glimmers of Consciousness Torn from the Void that remain present.

Short and sweet opener “Strychnine” leads the album with piercing, discordant noise and djenty, down-tuned breakdowns. The last minute could be ripped from any Slipknot album as 鬼 pulls off Corey Taylor’s cadence perfectly and even slips in some “Eyeless” inspired drum and bass. Title track “Fixation” packs more of a punch and paints a bigger, broader picture with stabby guitars complete with Gojira-like pick scrapes and driving drum work. Flashes of acoustic Unreqvited and symphonic elements bleed through and are brought to a close with a short burst of blackened metal and chill beats.

The full-on, symphonic black metal of “The Colossal Void” is the album highlight, an epic six minute onslaught of masterful blastbeats, gorgeous orchestration, twinkling keys and glowing arpeggios. It separates the album neatly from the more experimental tracks and introduces the darker black metal influenced ones which take a similar course of bleak but powerful metal with an aura of grandiose catharsis, like the incredibly Dimmu Borgir-esque “Celestial Fracture” and the brooding beast of “A Growing Emptiness.”

Final track “Consciousness Torn from the Void” is a re-recording of the first albums title track and one that rewrites history, perhaps cementing The Ember, The Ash’s evolution into ‘Symphonic Black Metalcore,’ or whatever name it will fall under. The track follows the same structure as the original but with wider dynamic and a fatter, more expressive sound, capping off the album in a nostalgic way, but one that looks brightly into the future.

I don’t see 鬼 making another dramatic shift into a whole other sound as it seems he is more than satisfied with this progression into a genre he has defined by himself as this music does feel entirely unique. Future albums could incorporate other subgenre elements but as a whole and regardless of prominent or less-prominent glimpses of other genre infusions, Fixation, at its core, is a gloriously combative mix of metalcore and symphonic black metal, with 鬼 clearly having a passion for both.

Like all of 鬼’s releases it’s an album you can connect to emotionally, perhaps in a different way to Unreqvited through. Here, you can vent instead of bathe in optimism and view each subgenre as a different reaction to freeing yourself from the chains of mental health as the music permeates your being to ultimately bring you a relieving breath of air. Fixation is an emotive purge of the anguishing blunt-force trauma of loss and how an already fragile soul may cope with the burden of carrying darkness upon one’s shoulders. It is quite inspiring.

Fixation has incredible breadth and depth to offer and will spark interest from many new fans I’m sure as there are many twisted directions the music takes, developing into a satisfying and still immersive experience which keeps your attention throughout. The final half of “Becoming The Eidolon” is pure Unreqvited so there are still shades of 鬼’s already commendable reputation to hear. Fixation is a wonderful album from start to finish with a whole intricate universe of aggressive music thrown at you. 鬼 has again forged an album that touches the heart and soul and by confronting pain himself his meaningful music has alleviated some of the suffering we all ourselves endure.

Fixation is out now on Prosthetic Records. You can buy it here.

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