Introduction: The Intersection of Art and Politics
Art is often a powerful tool for political expression, a fact that is sometimes overlooked in discussions about music. Just ask bands like Napalm Death, Rage Against The Machine, DragonForce, or Refused if their work doesn’t aim to enlighten and challenge societal norms. Even in its form, a song like “You Suffer” (originally released as a demo in 1986) is an act of rebellion. When a band embraces the avant-garde, it unintentionally becomes political, positioning itself as iconoclastic. From the early origins of the movement, there has always been a desire to shake up the well-established, stagnant society of the past. Today, avant-garde music continues to defy dogmas, seeking to liberate minds and provoke societal evolution.
Hostile Architecture: A Manifesto Against Modern Society
Ashenspire’s latest album, Hostile Architecture, serves as a manifesto against the numerous maladies of modern society, where financial success often takes precedence over personal fulfillment. As a band that loathes the current profit-driven rat race, Ashenspire fully embraces the concept of Recreationalist Anarchism in Black Metal, a movement gaining traction within the genre. Contrary to popular belief, anarchy is not about unlimited freedom or indifference to societal rules, as some punk caricatures might suggest. It is a complex political system built on the rejection of established norms. For a better understanding, I urge you to explore the works of Saul Alinski. Needless to say, I eagerly anticipated the arrival of Hostile Architecture.
The Musical Essence of Hostile Architecture
But how does Hostile Architecture fare musically? Has Ashenspire succeeded in delivering a powerful political message through their music? In the five years since their debut album, the Scottish band has undoubtedly refined their songwriting and style, distancing themselves from their primary influence. It is still evident that Ashenspire holds deep admiration for Devil Doll, even though only the distinct vocal style echoes the Leeds Gentlemen’s Club. There is also a hint of Vaerohn’s vocal intensity in the raw screams. Opening with a long dulcimer intro (played by Otrebor of Botanist) and featuring the saxophone, Hostile Architecture immediately announces its intention to defy conventions. The musical decadence presented to the listener faithfully reflects the decadence of a superficial society. Ashenspire has something to say, and they say it remarkably well. There is no trendy wokism or baseless conspiracy theories here—just a thought-provoking mirror held up for all to see.
A Furious Avant-garde Journey
The avant-garde nature of Ashenspire’s music is furious, leaving little room for respite as listeners are confronted with humanity’s failures. The use of saxophone evokes Fleurety and Solefald, while the subtle industrial arrangements bring an urban touch reminiscent of Imperial Triumphant, a dimension often lacking in pure Black Metal. The versatile addition of violins and saxophones should not overshadow the guitars, which remain present and unwavering, sometimes taking a back seat. Ashenspire boldly extends a middle finger laden with a “fuck you” attitude to bloated and greedy shareholders. Once a punk, always a punk!
Powerful Lyrics That Elegantly Convey a Socio-political Message
The lyrics, elegantly crafted, systematically challenge contemporary class struggles that are rigged against the participants in the race for profits and in favor of the privileged few. Woven with urban poetry often associated with rappers or slam poets, Ashenspire’s lyrics leave a lasting impact. For example, “The Law Of Asbestos” references the tragic Grenfell Tower fire in London in 2017, which claimed between 72 and 79 lives. Despite repeated warnings about the inadequate fire safety measures, two residents who voiced concerns were threatened with legal action by the building owners. The imagery is stark but fitting, as Hostile Architecture is built upon shoddy materials—cheap concrete.
Conclusion: A Must-Listen Album with a Political Punch
Hostile Architecture may not be suitable for every ear, but for me, it is undoubtedly the album of the year. With a political message that matches undeniable musical quality, this record is an essential addition to any music collection.
“No great men, only the great many.”