Ashen Reach / The Fear Is The Soundtrack To Approaching Storms

Friday, March 22nd, sees the release of The Fear, the eagerly anticipated EP from the dynamically atmospheric and bone-crushing Ashen Reach. With this release, it is clearly apparent that the band have challenged themselves to advance beyond the boundaries of 2020’s striking, critically acclaimed debut, Homecoming. In so doing, they demonstrate a deepening maturity while showcasing a distinct musical evolution.

Ashen Reach – The Fear

Release Date: 22 March 2024

Words: Sophie James

Some of you may already be familiar with some of the inclusions, as new cuts have been flowing steadily since last May. Alternatively, you may have caught one of their blistering live appearances.

Last spring’s initial single launches proceedings. At a touch over four minutes, Ghosts perfectly manifests a bleak malevolent atmosphere and the overwhelming sense of trepidation induced. 

The entire soundscape feels more symphonic whilst losing none of their characteristically crushing cadences. The complimentary guitar axis of Paddy Cummins and Joe O’Sullivan never work in anything other than absolute synchronicity.  

Their intricate interplay soars and swoops to colourise this opulent tapestry, while the power, clarity and variation in the vocals are an equally spectacular counterpart.

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A more detailed breakdown of this track can be found in the dedicated review Ghosts – A Next-Level Symphonic Metal Sensation

Ashen Reach - The Fear
Ashen Reach – The Fear

Next up is D1V1DE, a modern take on the age-old divide-and-rule strategy. In this increasingly chaotic post-Covid world, the message rings out truer than ever.

Comprising a paradoxically quirky yet more direct arrangement, it’s probably the most radical departure on the release. However, it’s that divergence that enhances its crossover appeal.

A more contemporary vocal delivery sequentially interspersed with authoritarian soundbites bookends the hugely addictive chorus of “They want to divide, by spreading pain and fear. They want to divide; it’s always been so clear.”

During a recent informal chat with singer Kyle, he readily admitted, “This was a very experimental one for us, one we wanted to push (us) out of our comfort zones. I wrote that one about how the world uses division as a tactic to keep people enraged over things, to (not) keep them focused on the true injustices and how ‘they’ profit from fear and hatred.”

There is just so much going on in the second single, Neophobia – and that’s just the introduction. This culminates in a brief section most reminiscent of Muse’s mighty The Handler which continues the ongoing feel of the preceding track. 

Inspired by the injustice of social repression, the vocals gather pace to match the narrator’s increasing frustration. “Not this enough, not that enough, just need to fit in the mould. Countless times I’ve heard these lines. How many more will I be told?”

Kyle’s vocals are a tour-de force ranging from soft fluent whispers, harsh reinforcement, soaring leads and lush harmonies. Recognition must also be afforded to Paddy whose increased vocal contributions significantly enhance the combined effect.  

All this atop a classic Ashen Reach arrangement that will have hair and limbs flaying when performed live. 

Penultimate track and latest single The Dark follows. Structurally, it is the most direct and immediate on this sophisticated collection and in terms of melody, possesses the most elevating of choruses.

“Stare into the darkness. My god, what have we done? Demons all around us, the end is soon to come.”

The EP concludes with the tempestuous Lost. A rich, swirling mini-epic whose lyrics can be interpreted as pertaining to a nautical cataclysm or as a metaphor for one’s inner turmoil.

That twin guitar assault yet again produces a sonic maelstrom with incisive chords striking like lightning through darkened skies while the symphonic arrangement ebbs and flows like the towering swell.  

I can imagine this one day being treated to a full orchestral accompaniment which would serve to heighten the already formidable sense of drama.

Like Ghost, this was also the subject of a standalone review upon its release in January: The beauty & depth of new single Lost

The Fear is the sound of a band boldly daring to liberate themselves from convention, and in so doing, produce a rich dynamic, multilayered soniverse which has been captured by a crisp and lavish production.

My innumerable listens have seen these gems become as deeply ingrained as those from their debut and visualise all coming across so compellingly live while being lapped up by enthusiastic audiences.

Quoting Kyle once more, “We’re naturally progressing heavier (on) each track but keeping our melodic edge.”

The Fear warrants the utmost acclaim and if it serves as a pathfinder towards their second full-length release, then the future is even more appealing.

Sleeve Notes

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