There is something rather grimy about the name Ash And Coal and typing it into a search engine I keep getting directed towards images of thick tarry gloop spreading over areas of land and coating it in a filth where nothing will ever grow again. Well there is something very gloomy about the music of this Swedish band who actually very kindly sent over their new 6 track EP to us on vinyl. It was not the first time we had encountered them as their previous 2010 self-titled release had made a big impact with its dark and poetic songs truly getting under the skin so naturally I was very keen to hear what they had been up to in the last three years. Previously a duo of Viktor Klint (who I am assuming is the same guy who was in the very noisy Swedish heavy riff hitters Corporation 187) and Adrian Hörnquist who also played with him in the likes of Thornclad, the band now have two guitarists joining them to expand upon their sound and maybe prepare them for live duties.
Musically the word moribund keeps coming up as their sound is very glum but in an infectious way that really cheers me up if that makes any sense. There is a real richness about Viktor’s somewhat upbeat vocals as things start with ‘Grim Reapers Sway.’ That is until the chorus when the noose tightens and snaps the neck taking life away forevermore. There is a feel of deathly blues here and listening to this is like being caught between the likes of Katatonia with a musical murder ballad poeticism, within the lyrics certainly, akin to the sombre song craft of Nick Cave. Guitars take on an almost Americana sound as they etch ‘The Crying Game’ with a jangling deadbeat misery straight out the swampy bayou. When the vocals hit their peak again they are full of hope and the melody is so strong it makes you shiver. These songs are incredibly addictive and after the first few listens you are going to find yourself drawn back to them a lot. Suiting their name perfectly we have ‘Of Mire And Filth’ it makes me think of the purposeful stride of Daniel Day Lewis in There Will Be Blood, we are swamped in a sea of black gold not that it is necessarily your salvation if you end up caught in it, you will still drown. There is more of an urgency here as the guitars clamour and weave and we get some vocal parts that are close to a great clean roar. I am reminded a little of what I would love a band like The Vision Bleak to sound here, ghostly ethereal and lush in tone, for me they never quite manage to quite achieve it though, certainly not compared to this fantastic bleak vision before me.
It’s very hard choosing a favourite tune here as we flip sides. The songs are all around 3-4 minutes long without any waste at all and they all seem to have their own spark of obsidian magic about them. The title track ensnares and by now the jangling guitar sound has become a firm companion and I am entranced by the musical sway and the snakelike sinewy feel of the number as glistening skeletal tones and smoky licks headily billow out the speakers. We finally ‘Let The Warhorses Loose’ but don’t be expecting them to gallop off, this is another heartfelt misery serenade, full of passion, yearning and loss and again is simple in scope and perfect with it.
This is an EP that really deserves to be heard and the band have made that very easy providing links to download it (for free) and if you really like it naturally the vinyl is available. So check this out, there’s no excuses at all and who knows Ash & Coal could well be your favourite new band.
(8/10 Pete Woods)