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Castevet – Mounds of Ash

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Castevet bring magnificent names to mind: Voivod, Enslaved, Deathspell Omega. To varying degrees, these names represent freedom from major/minor scales, the past of Western music. They still play instruments that divide the octave into 12 segments. But they’re more adventurous about utilizing those segments, stacking them into complex shapes that defy easy interpretation. Power chords are power, minor chords are sad, major chords are happy. Well, not really, but in most musicians’ hands they are. Add colors, subtract foundations, and things get interesting. Castevet know this. Only one album old, they belong among peers like Foscor and Averse Sefira who move metal forward by pushing tonal boundaries.

If Mounds of Ash (Profound Lore, 2010) were a person, it would be tastefully dressed, yet look different from different angles. At high volumes, it melds black metal textures with rhythmic friction borne of backgrounds in hardcore and grindcore. At low volumes, the textures have a gauzy beauty. The presentation is mysterious, down to the lack of printed lyrics. Supposedly they were “too personal to print”. This is a pet peeve of mine. Why write, record, and perform lyrics without committing them to public view? The “voice as instrument” argument holds no water here, as the hoarse yells are nothing special. Also, nice artwork – but it seems like wallpaper. What does it say? I suppose I want to have my cake and eat it, too. Easy interpretation is anathema, but difficult interpretation is frustrating.

Part of that frustration is the massive potential here. Castevet have both musical power and staying power. I’ve listened to almost nothing but this record for the past few weeks. I haven’t tired of it. That’s partly because it does such a beautiful job of maintaining suspense. Songs twist and turn but avoid definite destinations. This helps maintain interest – contrast with, say, breakdown-happy deathcore, which is all destination and no journey. But this is metal, music of overcoming. It would be nice to have a big payoff, even one. The closest this record comes is “Wreathed in Smoke,” which wraps itself in gorgeous synths (or real brass?) that culminate in a haunting held high note. Such leaps in scope made Voivod, Enslaved, and Deathspell Omega magnificent. Castevet can jump that high; they should do so more.

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— Cosmo Lee

Amazon (CD)
The End (CD)
Relapse (CD)

Profound Lore (CD)

Amazon (MP3, $6.93)

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