One of the most prolific and down to earth artists alive today, 鬼 has developed an ever-flowing, genre defying style, incorporating elements of symphonic black metal, post rock, classical, electronic, ambient, and even the occasional surprise trap beat. Known primarily for his project Unreqvited, he's channeled his most aggressive sounds into his newer side project, The Ember, The Ash.
Among most powerful and incredibly heavy albums I have had the pleasure of hearing, Fixation makes a bold shift from the primarily black metal sound of The Ember, The Ash's debut, which has its moments, but I honestly found a little boring. As I wrote in my brief Bandcamp review of Fixation:
"It's not often that I find a new piece of music that blows my mind inside out. The Ember, The Ash has done exactly that with their constantly expanding blend of unforgettable riffs, epic atmosphere, and the kind of heaviness you dream of hearing but rarely find anywhere."
After a debut I didn't care for, Fixation was a wonderful surprise. I knew in the first few seconds that I was in for some beautiful darkness. Strychnine, the opening track, will melt your face off. It's now one of my go-to songs when I want to get motivated and energized. The album continues to explore from there, with each song offering something new. Weaving elements of metalcore, deathcore, slam death metal, gothic metal, symphonic black metal, groove metal, and hints of what can only be described as early Unreqvited sound, there is never a dull moment.
鬼 took a new and very effective approach to this release. After the first two singles, each consecutive song was made public every couple weeks or so, offering bite size pieces for us to meditate on at a steady pace. Too often I find myself listening through an entire album of a certain style in one sitting, and when it's done I barely remember any of it, and having spent around an hour with it, I've already lost interest in that style and resumed my search for more music to shovel into the bottomless pit in my ears. Despite the genius that I'm sure is abundant in said music, too much of it at once can sort of blur together and cancel itself out so nothing stands out from anything else, and its beauty is missed entirely (this is partly why my own albums usually vary so widely in style from song to song).
With Fixation, I checked the album's page every couple weeks to find a new track to absorb. I feel like I've really gotten to know the album, and yet there's still much to be discovered; it's not the kind of music you can fully grasp in one listen and then be bored by, nor is it the kind of music so complex and novel that it starts off boring and confusing and takes a dozen listens to begin to enjoy.
Another unique aspect of this album is the inclusion of a previously released track. It closes with Consciousness Torn From The Void, which is the opening track of the debut album of the same name, bringing the project full circle. It's not merely a copy and paste, though. The song has been mixed and mastered with much better production quality, bringing it out of its original lo-fi black metal style and up to the level of the rest of Fixation. There also seem to be some subtle compositional differences. It's not often you see an artist revisit previous works, and it can be interesting to see an idea manifested in different ways.
The balance between novelty and familiarity is a fine line to walk, and The Ember, The Ash has done it well.