Review Summary: Haunting, brooding and fairly generic
Ashes You Leave have been around for quite some time, dishing out album after album without much of a following. It is only now with their 6th studio effort that the band has largely retreated away from their initial sound in order to gain some attention. After all the effort of so many releases, it is hard to blame them for trying to reach out but hopefully the much more accessible “The Cure For Happiness” will bring attention to their previous outings. This particular release is the band’s 2nd outing sporting the darkest, and most disturbing sound the band has contained to date.
Playing a thick, heavy brand of brooding doom metal alikes that of Warning the band dishes out thick, plodding riffs that ring and shake with fuzz creating a despair ridden atmosphere. All instruments contribute equally to the sound, there is a very delicate balance in the mix allowing every instrument to shine. The guitar work on this album overall however remains simply underwhelming, it gets the job done but it is all just so safe and forgettable. In order to differentiate itself from similar acts the band has a few gimmicks up their sleeve that work for the most part.
The first of the two gimmicks being that the band is fronted by a female vocalist, a rare sight indeed for the genre of doom metal. Dunja’s voice is incredibly suitable for this style of music it is mysterious, haunting but most importantly original. All elements of the mix may be balanced but they are all geared towards supporting the vocals as the instruments sort of move along in a fashion as to follow her odd melodies and unexpected turns. The vocals shift, and move around a lot, being produced as to be massive- Dunja is not afraid to pace the entire soundscape with her angelic crooning. Regardless of her odd melodies however, her voice can grow stagnant after the long run time of the album. In this type of music the vocals tend to be more purposeful and acute when used instead spanning the entirety of songs. The overly epic, dramatic signature style just becomes overdone and less emotionally crushing as it could have been if the vocals weren’t so centric to the music.
The second of the tricks are the flute and violin. Unlike other bands in this genre the band makes frequent use of these folk music weapons and occasionally adds them into the mix to add a bit of depth and character to the oh-so boring instrumentation which gives it a nice shine. The flute twiddles in the background and eventually builds into an interlude which is commonplace on this album. In the interludes the band takes a break from melancholy madness and the instruments get a little more time to shine rather than the vocals. The breaks are great as they divide up the overwhelmingly claustrophobic venture of the album into a more digestible piece. The only downfall is that the transitions into the interludes aren’t always well executed at times making the songwriting feel a bit questionable. Usually though the interludes are uniquely interesting and flow back into the main channel of business effortlessly.
‘Desperate Existence’ is a good album but it has its flaws, stagnancy being a critical issue throughout the album. The atmosphere is haunting and at times even downright scary but it has all been done before, and the formula is a bit too simple. Interludes, gimmicky folk instruments, spine-chilling vocals and atmosphere can make up for the lack of creativity in most aspects, deeming this album a worthy listen.