Review Summary: Heidi Solberg Tveitan's solo project and second release. The Thread continues to tread around dark atmosphere with a mix genre polywhirl, if that's a word.
Star Of Ash is yet another musical outlet from the bold and eclectic artist by the name of Heidi Solberg Tveitan. She has previously worked on several different projects, many involving her husband Ihsahn from the famous black metal band, Emperor. On Hardingrock, Ihsahn and Heidi took part in a unique take on the folk metal genre with the help of a famous Norwegian fiddler. The music on Grimen can be solely directed to Knut, with little to small contributions outside of vocals from Ihsahn or Heidi. Although neither had much input in the writing process, the album was quite solid. With Peccatum, Heidi aligned herself with Ihsahn and her brother to try and push the creative limits of black metal. Peccatum began to experiment with their sound later on their career. Progressing from standard black metal, they began to incorporate industrial beats and classical music into their sound with mixed results. They eventually dissolved in 2005 so Ihsahn and Heidi could focus on their other projects. Around this time, Heidi formed a solo group called Star Of Ash and released her debut, Iter.Viator a short time later. The metal roots from Heidi’s previous groups were left behind as she focused on creating dark, gothic sagas complete with haunting piano runs, stirring arrangements, and throbbing bass lines.
It wasn’t until the second album, “The Thread” that Star Of Ash came to life. This time around, Heidi enlisted help from German musician Markas Reuter and Japanese cyber punk writer Kenji Siratori. Reuter helps compose the music with Heidi while Kenji lends his talents to writing lyrics akin to his featured works. Along with these two, several other prominent guests lend a helping hand for the album. “The Thread” welds together classical with dark ambient, electronica, folk, industrial and slight traces of jazz into an intriguing blend of music. This album is primarily instrumental driven with clean vocals being used in brief sections. Kristoffer Rygg better known to the metal community as Garm makes two appearances on the tracks Blood, Bones And A Skull, and Crossing over. The latter being the best song on the album. Garm lends his distinct vocal style on both and uses it extremely well, especially on Crossing Over where he trades off with Heidie‘s ethereal female vocals. The dual vocal pattern is stunning and even features repeating choruses. The song boast a Hardingrock like moment with Knut Buen making an appearance with his fiddle.
The instrumentation displayed here is quite diverse, ranging from brass woodwinds to brief cello breaks and soaring orchestral passages. Star Of Ash go over the top in setting the epic atmosphere of the album with a large chest of toys to play with. This time around, Star Of Ash relies on more conventional instruments to play a bigger role than what was displayed on the last album. Piano plays a big part on the album as clean key melodies are integrated in much of the album. The piano work is very melodic and paces along with a sense of urgency. The guitars are usually present but not always. Mostly, They seem to come in and then seemingly fade out, waiting for another instrument to take over. The riffs are not heavy and generally acoustic. Still, the guitars hold a rocking beat and switch up the tone of the song pretty quickly. Tempos differ from slow classical numbers like “The Snake Pit where the orchestration starts to pick up speed to the jazzy influenced Blood, Bones, And A Skull. Star Of Ash’s music is multifaceted and executed to near perfection. Clogging each song with numerous elements and shifts could easily end up as a jumbled mess but Heidi and Markas excel at crafting each song to have their own special hooks. Each song has their own separate mood and emotions that flow smoothly to the next track.
Coming in with 10 tracks at just over 40 minutes means that this isn’t a very long album. That is one of my few complaints with this album. It seems to end way too soon and I tend to replay it in a short period of time. Hopefully the songs on the next album will be longer because I am magnetically drawn to this beautiful music. The production for this CD is very crisp and clean. The mixing gives the music a very polished and large sound complementing the strong vocals and musicianship. “The Thread’ isn’t so much of an album as it is a soundtrack to let’s say Pans Labyrinth or some sort. I don’t recommend this to fans of any certain genre as it can appeal to a larger audience than originally intended. It’s definitely worth checking out if you’re interested in what I’ve said.