There are few things as gratifying as finding out that a band you really enjoy is set to drop an album just around the corner after waiting for what feels like an eternity. The musical serendipity I am referring to in this instance is WFA alum, Ashbringer, as they’ve been one such band that I’ve been eagerly awaiting to hear any inkling of news from. They only just recently announced the release of We Came Here To Grieve and the best part about this news was that it came with a very short release window from said announcement, so you can only imagine how ecstatic that made me as I finally had something to look forward to without much of a wait.
We Came Here To Grieve is Ashbringer’s fourth record, the highly anticipated follow up to their 2019 release, Absolution. Taking heavy inspiration from the likes of Agalloch and Fen when it originally started off as a mere solo project back in the day, Ashbringer’s music slowly blossomed into something that is entirely their own while still paying homage to those legendary acts. With We Came Here To Grieve, it shows the band continuing onwards with their well-established sound, using it as a launching pad as the band treads new musical ground in this next, sonically vibrant chapter in their career.
What had drawn me to figuratively drool (and quite literally sometimes…) over their music was the blissful marriage of haunting dark folk and blistering black metal. Imagine that with long, sprawling songs that each took on you an entirely separate journey isolated from one another yet all still cut from the same cloth; Absolution is *chef’s kiss*. With We Came Here To Grieve, you’ll come to notice those folk and metal elements are still very much present, although they (mostly) exist independent of one another, as the band utilizes the stark contrast between the two to drive their songs. “Gazed” bounces back and forth between said musical elements and “Here”/“There” do the same but as separate companion tracks for example.
“Unsaid” has this Pantera-esque bravado in the beefy, slow riff that that leads into this super uplifting and cheerful chorus that feels like a cold splash of water to the face; in the best way of course. “Pages”, the second single from this album, is the most by-the-books Ashbringer track in how it masterfully fuses the black metal with Americana/Folk influence. As previously mentioned, the rest of the album keeps them somewhat independent of one another, yet the songs are fully dependent on the two. The main riff on this track is infectious as hell, as it sounds as great on acoustic guitar as it does with a healthy dose of distortion on the electric. I especially admire how this very riff was incorporated into the soulful guitar solo as it provides all the serotonin in my brain that I could ever want with reference to that melodic motif.
The titular track that closes out the record is easily the most experimental song they’ve done thus far. This heavily abstract outro (to the album) is one that progressively decays, as the song feels as if it’s tearing apart from the seams the further into it you get. The haunting guest vocals provided by the vocalists for Keep for Cheap only add to the melancholy and mournful nature of the music. The raw emotion captured by all the vocalists and instrumentalists alike creates such an enthralling, visceral experience as the intensity continues to build and build. It sends chills up my spine with how horrendously bleak it is, something I’ve never considered their music to be as there has always been an obvious glimmer of hope.
If there is one thing strikingly obvious in how this album is different from previous records is that it is much more streamlined and direct musically. I’ll admit that my first several listens to new Ashbringer were met with the slightest indifference, and I quarreled with myself to figure out why that was. I came to realize that I was expecting Absolution Part II: Electric Boogaloo and thus, I was only setting myself up for said disappointment. Once I shed those expectations away, I was able to enjoy this record for what it was, especially since it still has same amount of that good ol’ Ashbringer charm and personality oozing from each and every note, if not more. Now I find myself humming along to that “Pages” riff or thinking of the filthy tremolo leads from “There”, among many other memorable moments as well.
Don’t go into Ashbringer’s newest musical adventure expecting them to rinse and repeat Absolution, as you’d only be doing yourself a major disservice. We Came Here To Grieve is like an onion with how many layers it has, although the presence of those layers and depth is deceiving with how concise and straight to the point the tracks are. This album is very much a ‘you get out what you put in’, so if you give it the love and attention to detail that it deserves, it’ll reciprocate the favor and you’ll find yourself with an album worthy of many, many listens.