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Speak Not of the Laudanum Quandary (2017), 7.5/10
Hostile Architecture (2022), 6.5/10

(Clicka qua per la versione Italiana)

Scottish group Ashenspire (mastermind Alasdair Dunn on vocals and drums, Fraser Gordon on guitar, James Johnson on violin, Ben Brown on bass, Matthew Johnson on saxophone) played brutal and complex prog-metal on Speak Not of the Laudanum Quandary (2017). Restless Giants (09:21) is emblematic: it opens with random noise, over-the-top declamation and melodic violin, then pauses for a piano and violin break, then intones a violin-driven folkish dance (like It's A Beautiful Day jamming with Opeth) and, after a languid Pink Floyd-ian solo, ends with feverish guitar riffs. The psychodrama The Wretched Mills (08:47) has equal Van Der Graaf Generator-ian grandiloquence and metal wall-of-noise. The theatrical and visceral Mariners at Perdition's Lighthouse (07:44) is basically a black-metal version of 1970s prog-rock. Genesis and King Crimson were dreamy and their music, ultimately, was made of fairy tales. Ashenspire instead is agonizing and bleeding, torn apart by devastating emotions. The violin is the second voice to Dunn's desperate roar. The album reaches a peak of emphasis in Fever Sheds (10:33), which, after five minutes of dischordant siren-like guitars, basically becomes an infernal waltz and then a grotesquely operatic skit worthy of a Broadway musical. Last is the monolith Speak Not of the Laudanum Quandary (12:45), another piece that grows organically, like a film that unfolds through dramatic and sometimes gory scenes, with again the crucial contribution of the violin. A radical tempo and mood shift seven minutes into the piece and the romantic turn two minutes before the end

The compositions are generally less ambitious on Hostile Architecture (2022), although the technical mastery has improved. The Law of Asbestos (08:31) opens with Nino Rota-esque circus music, including a dulcimer and the band's major addition, Matthew Johnson's saxophone. This overture soon gets buried under a dense layer of tumultuous dissonance while the voice begins its tortured narrative. Scott McLean's piano joins for the looping apotheosis. Plattenbau Persephone Praxis opens with absolute cacophonous frenzy and proceeds by feverish bursts of emotion while the saxophone mostly repeats a steady pattern; a pastiche of jazz, minimalist and drum'n'bass influences. It is still largerly Dunn's show. In Apathy as Arsenic Lethargy as Lead Dunn croons like a male version of Grace Slick of the Jefferson Airplane while the instruments try to match his stately and grandiose melody. The longest piece, Cable Street Again (09:31), opens with four minutes of basically spoken-word recitation, and then spends several minutes simply banging all instruments below Dunn's declamation, so that the real musical part is only the instrumental coda.

(Copyright © 2023 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )