Review Summary: A vicious punk'n'roll onslaught with some rather unexpected, but not unpleasant influences.
On the strength of the one song I heard before purchasing Glass and Ashes' recent self-titled opus, I was expecting a chaotic punk'n'roll affair; loud and raucous guitar-buggery that would leap out of the speakers, beat me over the head for half an hour and leave me to continue in my day in a daze. It's fair to say that my senses were suitably battered, but not exactly in the way I was expecting - y'see Glass and Ashes are an intriguing beast; their sound is rooted in the same kind of wild-eyed punk'n'roll that The Bronx
and Hot Snakes
do/did so well, but rather than up the chaos factor with sheer velocity (see Zeke
) or a cocksure swagger and murderous intent (a la The Bronx
, again), they take influence from two rather unlikely sources - math-rock and post-metal.
The math-rock influence manifests itself in the form of guitarists Josh Hayes and Jesse Jenny constantly going off on tangents from each other, while bassist Michael Carter does his own thing altogether, and Michael Gleeson alternates between straight-ahead drum-pounding and off-beat rhythms, via some impressive fills, at the drop of a hat. If you need proof, look no further than "We Will Hang for This," which comes off like a ridiculously heavy version of Drive Like Jehu
, before segueing into a somewhat anthemic ending complete with a huge wall of screamed gang backing vocals. The post-metal influences are somewhat more subtle, with the band taking the kind of ominous chord progressions and melodies used by the likes of Isis
and Cult of Luna
to create spooky atmosphere, and using them within the context of a punk rock song, a good example being the clean(ish) guitar melodies in the more subdued parts of "Alpha State" and the intro to "Dead Bodies Skyscrapers High." Hell, the two minute instrumental "Exit Wound" genuinely wouldn't sound at all out of place on the aforementioned Scandinavian post-metallers' latest album.
This heady brew of styles would be nothing without good songwriting, but this is something Glass and Ashes have in spades, constantly varying tempos and using unconventional song structures in such a way that allows them to stretch songs well beyond the five minute mark without ever losing intensity or the listener's interest. Most bands would probably avoid placing two instrumental interludes ("North Flight" and "Exit Wound") one after the other, for fear of derailing the album's momentum, but in this case such sequencing works perfectly, providing a few calm moments in which to catch your breath before the onslaught of the final three tracks.
So far, I've painted Glass and Ashes
as an incredibly noisy and caustic album, and while it's fair to say that this is somewhat true, there is in fact a huge melodic streak right through every track . There are a few instances of melodic vocals (in the aforementioned "Dead Bodies..." for example), but even in the more chaotic parts the combination of the varied instrumental elements, along with Hayes and Carter's raw-throated vocals (let's just say the band was probably named after their staple diet...), seem to at least vaguely imply a sense of melody, if that makes sense. When the the guitars and vocals converge on a more explicit melody, the contrast makes it seem even more tuneful than it really is. It's a strange effect to try and describe, but Glass and Ashes seem to have crafted a furious and abrasive album which somehow creates the illusion
of melody throughout. It's an impressive feat, and one which provides the album with a strange but not unpleasant quality.
Incredibly, for what is only the band's second album, Glass and Ashes have made an intense, interesting, and varied album which should not only appeal to fans of punk rock, but also to anyone who appreciates aggressive and intricate music, regardless of genre.