Ice cold wind, fog and dissonant blackened guitar chords set the scene of a barren wasteland before the battle in the opening seconds of Aschenvater’s debut death metal release, Landungsfeldmassaker (English translation: Landing Site Massacre). Formed in Görlitz in 2016, the band began life as a two-piece studio project, taking great inspiration from the world of Games Workshop’s iconic miniature wargame Warhammer 40k, the lore of which is a prominent feature in the subject matter, artwork and even the group’s name. Beyond the music is a greater sense of depth in its narrative, which becomes obvious after searching through Aschenvater’s social media. Each track has a meaning within the story (including the instrumental tracks), even going so far as to denote the meaning of certain instrumental passages as though they were events in war. Their choice to growl in their native tongue of German also adds to the atmosphere, something which is scarce in the old school death metal (OSDM) scene.
Following the aforementioned introduction (‘Der Beginn // Tag Der Abrechnung’), the album launches into the first foray of fast-paced Bolt Thrower worship with a warm coat of HM-2 fuzz reminiscent of fellow war-influenced death metallers, Hail of Bullets. Comparatively simple riffs, few leads and a distinct lack of solos accentuate the straight-to-the-point ethos of the band, relying on strength and depth to represent the horrors of war. Subtle hints of dissonance a la Martyrdöd and even slight compositional traces of a hardcore influence (particularly in the middle of ‘Sturmreif // Der Verräterkönig’ and the d-beat inspired latter half of ‘Im Feuersturm // Entfesselte Götter’) help to showcase a breadth of range. Having said this, their particular formula of slow pummelling guitar work can tend to err on the side of monotony at times, for example, the bleak instrumental filler ‘Massaker // Echos’ and the first half of the aforementioned ‘Im Feuersturm’. Despite being self- produced and utilising a computerised drum sound, the overall product sounds professional within its subgenre, perhaps let down during blast beat sections where the drums seem to disappear amongst the chaos.
As with many in this new school of OSDM, there’s little innovation or unique exclusivity to Aschenvater’s style or approach. The band wear their influences on their sleeves, both musically and lyrically, providing a welcome change from the stereotypical emphasis on gratuitous gore in favour of a bleaker (and perhaps even subtle) offering.
Aschenvater are well versed in their ability to perform and compose, but it’s apparent that the atmosphere and story surrounding the music are the stars of the show. A worthy listen but room to improve.
Release Date: 30/04/2021
Record Label: Dead Center Productions
Standout tracks: Sturmreif // Der Verräterkönig, Im Feuersturm // Entfesselte Götter
Suggested Further Listening: Martyrdöd – List (2016), Hail of Bullets – Of Frost and War (2008), Bolt Thrower – Realm of Chaos (1989)