Review Summary: Rising from the ashes, darker and more watered down
Music simply can’t be without inspiration, we have seen bands succeed immensely in their darkest of times and celebrate in their accomplishments in the best of times. Above all else motive is the catalyst that drives the music, without a feeling to capture there is little substance to give. So is the case with Ashes You Leave’s latest outing “The Cure for Happiness”. After for what seemed like an eternity the band reunited from their hiatus seven years later to walk right back into the world of doom metal. Seven years is a long time, people change and so do musicians with Ashes You Leave being no exception.
In their old days the band featured a concrete and predictable formula in order to create some bleak and haunting music. Angelic, brooding female vocals, crushing guitars, a little flute and violin and you got yourself an Ashes You Leave album. Although nothing ground breaking the band managed to find itself a nice little pocket in the genre that it could call its own, and bring forth some surprisingly desolate music. Upon return, with their latest out especially the band has taken steps to revamp this formula, notable but for the most part unsuccessful.
With decades gone by with little attention and the loss of their easily recognizable vocalist, the band knew something had to change in their standard formula. In order to optimize the recovery of the band’s crippling concerns the band has made their music much more accessible and much more vocal centric to allow fans to adapt to the new layout. As much as this album sounds different it also doesn’t bring anything new to the table either. Everything in fact is very much the same but drastically toned down to a nearly radio friendly format.
The ambition of this album is a lot less immersive and big, instead the band settles for a humbler, but much darker more gothic approach to their music. The crushing riffs are still there somewhat, but they sit low in the mix working only to accentuate the vocals instead of standing on their own as an immersive piece. The rhythm guitar is bare bones here; the riffs are simple, repetitive and too meek to be anything other than bland. The lead guitar is uncreative, to even unheard on some portions of this album- there is no guitar dueling, or swift integration to be found- the guitar and drum work have ultimately stepped down in favor of the main attraction. Optimizing their niches, the vocals are of course the absolute centre of the album featuring distorted, over dramatic vocals that soar and shake into the full moon night sky. Flutes and violin too are much more centric than ever before in the band’s repertoire being much higher in the mix and even dare to say, more important than the standard band equipment. The violin interplays with the guitar to make create very dark melodies and the flute works to create, a more upbeat environment when breathing room is needed. The band tries to avoid being overbearing by utilizing various interludes and cheesy flute passages to allow the listener some breathing room. Although the formula keeps stagnancy to a minimum it is simply a lazy and cheap way to keep the audience engaged without actual songwriting exploration.
“The Cure For Happiness” is a much uninspired, watered down shadow of the band’s former self. If you go into this expecting the same sort of atmosphere as the band’s past releases you will be highly disappointed. The same gimmicks still apply and they are wearing out, the band is just too cautious to tread new and exciting songwriting leaving their idea simply tired.