"Ashore the Celestial Burden" is the debut full-length studio album by German death/doom metal act Dark Millennium. The album was released through Massacre Records in 1992. Dark Millennium was formed in 1989 and disbanded in the mid-90s after releasing two demos and two full-length studio albums. The years leading up to the release of "Ashore the Celestial Burden" were quite busy with both lineup changes and the release of the band´s two demos taking up Dark Millennium´s time. Lead vocalist Christian Mertens was out of the band for a couple of months and didn´t participate in the recording of the "Of Spectre Their Ashes May Be (1992)" demo, but he is present on "Ashore the Celestial Burden".
5 out of the 10 tracks on the album are re-recorded versions of tracks from the two demos. "Black Literature" was originally featured on the "The Apocryphal Wisdom (1991)" demo and "Below the Holy Fatherlands", "Spiritual", "Wizardry Assemblage" and "Medina's Spell" were originally featured on the "Of Spectre Their Ashes May Be (1992)" demo.
Stylistically the music on "Ashore the Celestial Burden" is a doomy type of death metal with occasional progressive leanings. Haunting and melancholic guitar leads, brick heavy doomy riffs and rhythms, and some very aggressive and snarling growling vocals on top. But that´s not all, because this is not solely a doom/death metal album and there are usually several tempo changes in the tracks and the band often play mid-paced (and occasionally slightly faster) old school death metal parts, which adds to the brutality of the music. When they do that they remind me slightly of their fellow countrymen in Morgoth. Dark Millennium also bring progressive ideas and song structures to the table and to my ears a track like "Beyond the Dragon's Eye" is a fully fledged progressive death metal track. The tasteful and clever use of acoustic guitars and piano on that track works really well. The addition of clean vocals sung by Gerhard Magin, also make that particular track stand out.
The musicianship are obviously on a high level and "Ashore the Celestial Burden" is also packed in a raw and suitingly dark sound production. It could have been slightly more powerful and well sounding, but it´s a minor issue, and it´s pretty great as it is.
While I mention progressive ideas and structures above, "Ashore the Celestial Burden" is an album where Dark Millennium successfully balance death metal brutality, doomy melancholy, and progressive sophistication. Which means that the progressive ideas never come in the way of the death metal brutality or the doomy melancholy and visa versa. And along with the skilled delivery of the music, the decent sound production, and the adventurous songwriting, that´s probably the album´s greatest strength. A 4 star (80%) rating is fully deserved.