Star of Ash
~reviewed by Joel Steudler
In case you thought for a minute that it was 'Repeat Articles From Last Issue As Filler' Month again (already? where does the time go?), I'll start this review by pointing out that yeah... StarVox ran a review of 'Iter.Viator.' in December as well. Since The End Records was kind enough to provide us with two copies of the album, though, we dedcided to pass on the generosity to you -our three loyal readers- and offer up this second look at an album that deserves many more looks than two. Simply put, Star of Ash's 'Iter.Viator.' is fine art.
Like some insane amalgamation of Da Vinci, Van Gogh, Rembrandt, and Picasso, the music on 'Iter.Viator.' is comprised of disparate elements which improbably combine to form captivating art. Synthy electronica and symphonic strings and horns ebb and flow like waves breaking on the shore as the mood shifts across tracks. Driving drumbeats propel the listener through the more aggressive moments on the album while at other times pensive, artificial atmospheres calm the senses. Melancholy piano lines evoke vulnerability and wistful yearning, but are offset by crashing power chords, the buzz of the electric guitar signaling resolute determination. I could be reading too much into the sounds Mrs. Heidi S. Tveitan has lavished upon 'Iter.Viator', and you may interpret them differently than I do, but the beauty of what she's created is that it engenders strong emotional responses, elicits powerful feelings.
I'll forego a detailed description of the contents of the album since Eric's review (and interview with Mrs. Tveitan) covered that ground in depth last month. Instead, let me liken Star Of Ash's remarkable album to some other acts you may be familiar with. If you liked Virgin Black's 'Somber Romantic', 'Iter.Viator.' will surely please you, as it too combines stunning artistry, dark themes, and great variety in instrumentation. If, by chance, you happened to pick up Aesma Daeva's 'The Eros of Frigid Beauty', you may note similarites with 'Iter.Viator.' in that both employ orchestral accompaniment to great effect, and meld rock, gothic and classical elements.
Anyone familiar will Ulver's more recent work in the ambient/soundtrack arena will find themselves at home with Star of Ash as well. In fact, Garm himself shows up on one track to lend some brief guest vocals (man has that guy ever improved his voice over the years or what? His work here and on the latest Arcturus is stunningly smooth and powerful). It came as no surprise to me that Garm brought Star Of Ash into the Jester records fold.
If you enjoy ambitious, artistic, impeccably crafted music that transcends genres and paints emotions on a canvas covered in many textures and colors, you owe it to yourself to seek this album out. It heartens me and gives me hope for the future of music to know that there are still people out there who are capable of weaving exquisite tapestries of sound that make no concessions to commercial concerns, yet remain highly listenable and engaging. Do not let Star of Ash's 'Iter.Viator.' escape your attention.
Star of Ash is:
The End Records (US):