CASTEVET CRAFT BRILLIANT SORTA-BLACK METAL ON MOUNDS OF ASH
Profound Lore Records has a hard-on for American black metal, especially the NYC variety. Not that this is a problem for yours truly, considering that I goddamn motherfucking love Krallice and am also quite fond of The Howling Wind. But upon hearing Mounds of Ash, the debut album from Brooklyn black metallers Castevet, it becomes clear that the Profound Lore folks certainly have a type: big riffs, proggy inclinations, refusal to play by the genre’s rigid rules. And obviously all this is wonderful, in that it’s what’s kept black metal alive (or slagging its good name if you’re an OG in Norway, 38, and very, very bitter) over the years. And yet, Castevet seems to be doing something slightly different with it, and the result really isn’t that black metal at all. What it is, however, is fucking great.
Yes, there are moaning, tremolo-picked guitars and raspy, undead vocals. Yes, their album is called Mounds of Ash. But the music isn’t grim or necro at all. There’s a melancholy atmosphere (intro track “Wreathed in Smoke“ even has orchestral brass on it), but Castevet borrow too liberally from prog-metal and even the start-stops of math rock to be fully immersed in it. What’s left is a ragged beast made of dissonant arpeggios and burly grooves that are endlessly propulsive while still taking the time to savor the meatier and more substantive riffs (closer “Harvester“ sounds like what would happen if Darkthrone and Amon Amarth had a baby). It’s incredibly dense, but unlike Leviathan or Deathspell Omega, not intimidatingly so. One could be a relative black metal novice and find a great deal to enjoy in Castevet’s thickset world. These are gentlemen familiar with the ingredients and how to combine them; while lesser bands are making a smudged brown, Castevet are making the color green. Everything sounds natural together, though, and the results sound refreshingly unique.
The MVP of the record, though, is drummer Ian Jacyszyn. Most good metal drummers tend to simply hold everything together, but Jacyszyn both keeps everything in place and launches things over the top. While the guitars whirl and fragment and the bass keep a firm, dirty ground under the proceedings, the drums push everything forward, evoking head-nodding as well as the occasional awesome fill to make sure you’re paying attention. It’s easy to forget the band are a three-piece considering how enormous they sound. But like the genre they cull from, doing a lot with a little is the rule of law. But they only cull from it, not adhere to it. Which is fine, because the last thing the world needs is another true black metal band. Castevet have expanded it to the point where it isn’t even black metal anymore, and Mounds of Ash is all the better for it.
(4 out of 5 horns)