Absolution is a gloriously weird album, and it doesn’t slide neatly into comfortable notions of what black metal should sound like. That’s very likely the point and a big part of the reason Ashbringer’s Prosthetic debut is such a rousing success. It’s also one that somehow sounds much different in reality than on paper. In essence, this is just a shoegaze-y, post-black metal record, not all that different in approach from Agalloch, Deafheaven, or Alcest, except Absolution rarely comes across like just another atmospheric black metal record. That’s in large part because of the production choices, which minimize the guitar distortion and amplify the treble leads, but more importantly is the emphasis on mid-tempo menace rather than all-out hyperspeed blasting. Plus, there are proggy, sludgy moments that are more reminiscent of The Ocean than Wolves In The Throne Room.
This context is important because Absolution is an incredible record, imbued with heaping doses of the types of color painted on its cover; however, that initial hurdle of entry, of reprogramming your brain before taking it all in, is very important. The band hail from Minnesota, and the majesty of the million lakes, harsh winters, and green summers, is written in the spaces of Absolution. It’s certainly a wonderful “casual stroll” record, one that brims with power and passion more greatly when experienced outdoors. That Cascadian influence – albeit a few time zones away – gives the album an expansive bit of splendor, a magnificence that is not revealed early on. Guitarist/vocalist Nick Stanger’s range and power are commanding and more expansive than shrieking away at the darkness.
In that sense, it’s fair to call Absolution widescreen atmospheric black metal, a style that embraces a host of sounds and motifs to push the genre to new heights. Ashbringer sidestep lazy comparison because their aims are different, their execution altered. For those with an open mind and a desire to spend an hour walking through wooded areas, Absolution is a pure delight.