Having landed on Germany’s home of cool alternative rock, Denmark’s The Rising offer the first slab of straight up Metal to be released on the label and it’s something they are obviously proud of, with Exile On Mainstream boss Andreas remarking on the signing ‘they are basically the first pure Metal band on the label, manifesting a step for us into a direction we always admired’.
With such lofty expectations placed on the shoulders of this three piece, it would be easy to dissect this release under the razor sharp blade of heavy criticism. In fact, upon first listen I must confess that whilst the musicianship was solid, the album passed me by somewhat and I was bogged down with the lavish comparisons between the album and the laundry list of heavyweight bands cited as influences – a veritable who’s who of the past thirty years: Deep Purple, Thin Lizzy, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest etc and also grimmer stuff like Mercyful Fate, Slayer, Metallica and Celtic Frost as well as finding allies in bands like High On Fire, Kylesa and Mastodon.
Talking a band up under such circumstances sets the bar extremely high for their first release and as such, my initial report was that the band fell short, not in bad way by any means, but merely because… well, they are none of those bands.
The one thing that you need to bare in mind from the indulgent press release is the statement: ‘The Rising present their infectious sounds with an urgency and originality that warrants repeated listens‘.
Returning to the album to listen to it as just a piece of music was a much more liberating experience. Without the need to look at every detail under a microscope, this was a largely wholly pleasurable experience. ‘To Solemn Ash’ is full to the brim of an urgent, primal energy that oozes from every second the band have poured into this release. It has huge hook laden riffs from start to finish. Produced by new producing talent Jakob Reichert Nielsen and mastered by Alan Douches (Converge, Mastodon, High On Fire) it sounds massive as the band work through every conceivable approach to their craft.
‘Mausoleum’ with its ominous, epic intro slaps you in the face with a low end chug and towering lead work while vocalist Henrik Waldemar Hald alternates between a gravel like growl and a soaring range that does recall much of the old school Metal that has gone before it and ‘Sea Of Basalt’ manages to capture the balance of Thrash like ferocity and heroic catchy riffing to make the bombastic palatable.
Whilst the band are clearly flying the flag for true metal (that’s true, not troo) as on the chest beating ‘Under Callous Wings’, they are capable of taking their foot off the pedal to create slow brooding epics like ‘Cohorts Rise’ or adding an almost progressive break to ‘Heir To The Flames’ and for me, the album is better for the light and shade these touches bring and the more I listened to it, the more I could hear nods to Mastodon in the sludgy stoner workouts of ‘The Vault and Passage’.
There are plenty of promising elements in ‘To Solemn Ash’ and it is clearly the sound of a band finding its feet; there is very little you could actually pin point as wrong on here. The rhythm section is tight and Hald manages to keep the fret pyrotechnics from edging into the ridiculously pompous. There is no doubting the passion and commitment of the band’s delivery, but I did find my attention span wandering over the course of the whole album and some of the tracks seemed to pass me by even on multiple listens, which is a bit of a shame because I think they have all the right ingredients to make a great band.
Still, this is their first album and clearly a big achievement for both them and their label, so my advice would be to disregard the hyperbole surrounding this release and check out a decent, solid album – the more you listen to it, the more you’ll find to identify with and definitely check out their second album when they make it.
Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden