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"The contradictions of black metal are what keep me coming back to it (also because it’s the only sub-genre of metal to have a new school of academic studies - black metal theory - named after it). Its minimalism is so extreme as to make it accessible to an even wider pool of people than other more established DIY musical genres, and yet the genre is replete with elitism and claims of intrinsically aloof detachment from most of living human world. It's sodden with conservative bigotry, but also a site for spellbinding transgression. The fan-base appears both enormous and minuscule.

My engagement with ASHBEL has primarily been through a black metal lens, despite their strong slowcore and harsh noise flavours that are just as distinct. To distil a listening experience is very much in going with the intent of the genre, as is the wilful close-mindedness. You find a small room in your mind in which there is nothing but space and air for that kind of sound, and you breathe deeply and block out the world. When your options are reduced, your points of discovery are sharper and more desperate, and you cling to them tightly.


Isolationism, and the lengths you can take within that, are very large for me in my understanding of ASHBEL on this: their first full-length studio album. The screams are something either just before or immediately after exasperation, where that release was not, as you had hoped, a release. There is space around the jangle of the guitar and flutter of the noise, and the drums don't pummel how you would expect from feelings so fraught. That space is where you see the discomfort, and that discomfort is what moves everything around it. There is also a powerful queer presence there, often found in the carefree dissonance that appears to draw from the more wilfully strange DSBM bands that revel more so in pain than heaviness.

Black metal is overpowering music for small spaces. This part is probably where my indignant obsession with describing ASHBEL thusly falls over, as the way they expand and fill whatever performance space they're in shows a need to share the physicality of their sound. But... no, I'll stick to my rigidity for a bit longer, because here-in lies another wonderful contradiction in black metal: it is both frozen and violent, untethered and shackled, oppressed and liberated. ASHBEL fill so many points in this musical lexicon, somehow recognising the spectrum within the form at the same time as being torn apart by the binary oppositions that keep the style a living, breathing, dying, and resurrecting thing."

Ashbel was born out of the idea that noise and music should not only complement each other but to also use noise as another instrument itself. The band takes inspiration from conventional heavy music, harsh noise and industrial sounds, as well as free-improvisation; disparate influences range from black metal, Japanese hardcore and grindcore acts like ENDON, SWARRRM, Stubborn Father, to Jazz avant-garde greats Marc Ribot, Patty Waters, Diamanda Galás, and tempo-shifts which invoke a Codeine-esque melancholic atmosphere.

Deluge
was conceived as a cathartic raw expression of escaping from trauma and its escorts of various malaise. The core of the song structures are built around Khoa’s mid-range driven guitar and Lulu’s dynamic and fluid drums which are enveloped by her discordant electronics and noise, topped off by Jarvis’ harrowing vocals as well as mournful screams and shrieks.