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Ashbringer is an atmospheric black metal act from the United States. Originally the one-man band of Nick Stanger, the debut album Vacant was released in 2015.

Following this, Stanger expanded his project into a full band consisting of the musicians he had brought together to form a live group previously. The new band version of Ashbringer released their second album Yūgen in 2016.

- Biography by adg211288, June 2016.
Thanks to adg211288 for the addition

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ASHBRINGER Vacant album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Atmospheric Black Metal 2015
ASHBRINGER Yūgen album cover 4.45 | 2 ratings
Atmospheric Black Metal 2016


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The Bitter Taste of Life's Only Certainty
Atmospheric Black Metal 2014

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Album · 2016 · Atmospheric Black Metal
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Although Yūgen (2016) is the second full-length album by US atmospheric black metal act Ashbringer, in a sense it's also a new start for the group. That's because previously Ashbringer was the solo vehicle of musician Nick Stanger, who released the first Ashbringer album Vacant (2015) all on his own. Now, however, there is a full band around him, bringing them up to a five-piece act with Stanger handling vocals and guitars. So for most of the band this is their first release together.

While physical copies of Yūgen have been released, Ashbringer has also chosen to release the album as a free/name your price download. My experience with free albums has been a bit hit and miss; many end up sounding like they're free for a reason. Sometimes though something free turns out to be the sort of gem that really gives meaning to the old expression 'the best things in life are free'. Yūgen is certainly one such album. On it, Ashbringer play a brand of atmospheric black metal that has some traits of the current blackgaze movement (though I wouldn't call this a blackgaze release), specifically with how clean sounding many of the sections of music are. The band weave in folk influences, as well as post-rock, with some of their instrumental skills even approaching the progressive, something that's more unusual for a genre that will typical focus on creating a soundscape rather than technical prowess.

All of the above of course represent quite common forms of black metal music, but here Ashbringer have brought them into one, which makes Yūgen a quite varied album, though one that I found to need a few listens to really start to appreciate everything that is going on within it. Tracks like Oceans Apart, second on the album, go through several different moods from blackened riffs to soft, rather dreamy sections. I'm pretty sure that's a mandolin being used behind the final black metal passage that closes the song too. An early highlight that shows that Ashbringer are an act with a lot to offer, an impression that other tracks only enhance. I got ahead of myself to mention Oceans Apart, as the album opens with Solace, a ten plus minute track that any fan of the extended atmospheric black metal format should lap up.

I won't lie, some parts of the album do showcase some of the atmospheric black metal genre's more repetitive traits but the fact that their instrumental work is much more interesting than the average act from the genre more than makes up for that. The atmospheres that they create are really quite nice and the band still manage to throw you even in the second half of the album, such as with the Yūgen title track where they swap Nick Stanger's growl for guest female vocalist Elizabeth Redding and the following all too brief instrumental piece Omen, which really shows how talented the band is when operating completely outside the black metal genre. There's even a trombone used on this one.

Yūgen probably sounds too pretty (for want of a better word for it) for the traditional, old school black metal fan to enjoy, but for the metalhead always on the lookout for new young talent (and they are young, all members are 19 or 20 at the time of writing) this is definitely an album that needs to be listened to. The fact that its free should only add incentive to do that. Ashbringer, despite how short a time they've been together (especially as a full band), are already proving themselves willing and able to push black metal boundaries. A stunning release that I'm certainly going to pick the physical copy up for at my first opportunity.

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