Avant garde metal is a hard thing to pull off. It's the sort of art form that really demands a lot from the listener and expects a lot of commitment if you want to pull through and understand. It's also a genre that demands a lot from the artist and makes it really easy to fall flat on your face and embarrass yourself in front of everyone. Most avant garde records seem to fall into this category. Possibly hinting at the future of metal but also giving you the sinking feeling that maybe the reason the band plays avant garde metal is because they weren't good enough to play normal metal. Ashenspire's most recent offering, Speak Not Of The Laudanum Quandary seems to straddle this divide. While it certainly seems to be a cut above its peers, I'm not going to say that it's the future of metal. Rather it's a damn good record that keeps your ears busy and your mind constantly guessing about what will unfold next.
What's fascinating about this record is the sheer magnitude of the compositions. The songs tend to all be drawn out and multi part affairs that showcase a variety of instruments (Though I think in most cases they are synth samples) and they clearly show the sheer level of skill behind the band. That being said – I also feel like this skill has not always been super well executed on Speak Not Of The Laudanum Quandary. While yes, it does mean that sometimes it feels like the album is a bit too pretentious it also means that the production isn't always where it needs to be and that the songs could largely be cut down and end up being more effective. While I certainly enjoy the proggy touches found throughout I also think that Speak Not Of The Laudanum Quandary often sees itself suffering from having too much content to sift through and leaves the listener with a headache. This isn't because the songs are bad but rather because they are almost all really long and require a lot of effort to pick apart.
The point being, Ashenspire is an extremely talented group of musicians, but also one who need to work on pulling their sound back down to earth and coming up with a better representation of who they are and what they can be. Rather than getting lost in the high flying magic of their music I'd like to see them take the strongest elements, that is to say the powerful vocals and emotional piano parts and emphasize them, reminding us time and time again of the burning power and passion behind the music without going us to have to divulge the beauty in a sea of other stuff. the other stuff isn't bad at all but rather distracting. This is a band who, if they could tighten themselves up at the seams could be one of the best in their genre, but for right now leave me with just too much to pick apart.