Ashbringer leads us back again into the void of melancholia. With powerful vocals and heartbreaking melodies, We Came Here To Grieve is a letter to all the grievers and the passionate.

I love albums that feel like a marshmallow suffocates you (not my quote). And with their fourth album, the Minnesota band has done it again. I’m very picky with my atmosblack metal, and this is a journey to listen to. Ashbringer holds your hand in a painful but needed trip, exploring the sadness of grief and its particularities. The type of grief is up to the listener, and with such moving lyrics written by Nick Stanger, it is barely impossible not to make the record your own.

Opening the album is Rain, a raw piece that the band used as the record’s first single. Listening to the single, I thought the album was going to be harsher and bolder than it is, so I was a little scared of not finding the fusion I really like in the band: lyrics screamed at your face, contrasting with melodic voices and harmonies embellished with beautiful yet also deep instruments. This track begins with the vocalist screaming the words “rain down hard, rain down heavy”. As is typical in Ashbringer, the track takes a more melodic approach midway through the song, with two vocal melodies contraposed to each other, culminating in the same opening lyrics.

Pages opens with a soft acoustic riff and Stanger’s echoing voice, then some vocalising followed by shrieking vocals, explaining how the singer feels that they did not know some things about the person they are grieving, but they know they loved them. These statements accompany chords, guitar fingerpicking style and exceptionally well-executed drums.

Unsaid is a moving ballad that intercalates screaming vocals with melodic singing. I find the use of synths in the chorus very interesting, which you can barely hear unless you’re paying close attention. The song closes with the verse, repeating the idea that the writer feels sorry that they left so many things unsaid and that they can feel the person that they are grieving everywhere they go.

My favourite part of the record is undoubtedly the second half. In the fifth song, Gazed, Ashbringer does it again! They crush your soul into little pieces. The feeling I had when I listened to this song for the first time was the same as when I first heard their album Yugen. I needed to stop what I was doing and Listen. To. The. Song. The mandolin works so well, especially with the lyrics. “This feels like purpose | This feels like shelter in rain | This feels like safety | This feels like contentment in all”.

Then, Permanence arrives as a cold wind haze. I interpret this song as the anger phase of grief. The singer is angry, tumultuous and transvalsated by their loss. So, they hold onto the one thing they have: permanence. Far continues with this powerful anger. “It feels like solace is as far as it’s ever been”.

Here and There are longing personified. Here starts with a beautiful and mellow soft guitar, followed by the singer singing honestly heartbreaking lyrics. This ballad puts a stake in your heart. I particularly enjoy how the drums are mixed in, and of course, in any Ashbringer song, the vocal harmonies are always spot-on. There functions as a counterparty for Here. When Here is slow and tranquil, There is aggressive and passionate. The drums are distinct from those in Here, doing blast beats and accompanying guitar riffs. When the singer sings Here, in There, he screams how grateful that person stayed at their side: “I could have lost myself | In the hole that I dug”.

And There connects directly with We Came Here To Grieve, the record’s final track and the one that gives its name to it. This track functions as an outro but also draws some parallels with Gazed, my favourite song in the album. “This feels like cleansing | This feels like waking from death | This feels like transcendence | This feels like breathing you in”. Somewhat a cacophony of words and instrumentalia, this last song is the perfect conclusion for a record that embraces you in the grief discourse, treating this complex theme with extreme care and adding new perspectives.

For me, this album is a journey. And the final lyric sums it up very well: “We came here to grieve | We left with something else”. Grief is complicated to navigate, and as I already discussed earlier, We Came Here To Grieve handles this wonderfully and majestically. Stanger’s lyrics really resonate with the listener, so you can make the album your own. Grief itself is a journey, and you never return from this journey empty-handed.

Favourite Track: N. 5. Gazed
Rating: 8,5/10

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