Having formed in 2013, Glasgow-based avant-garde metal collective Ashenspire released their thoughtfully blackened debut in 2017. Don’t talk about the dilemma of Laudanum was a scathing exploration of the brutality of British imperialism. Two years later, the group takes a critical look at the ever-widening wage gap that has turned the working class into capitalist cannon fodder. Hostile Architecture is a timely rumination on urban isolation and class disparity. Decibel Magazine is thrilled to share this album a few days early with an exclusive premiere ahead of the July 15 release date from Code666 and Aural Music.
If you’re expecting an orthodox black metal record, Ashenspire has loftier goals. There is nothing derivative Hostile Architecture. Beginning with “The Law of Asbestos”, the album shudders and screams with its own singular energy. Singer, drummer, lyricist and lead composer Alasdair Dunn embodies Nick Cave’s enlightened performance mania in The Birthday Party. Meanwhile, violins and saxophone share soundscapes with heavy distortion throughout. As the raging crescendo of “BEton Brut” and searing single “Tragic Heroin” contain some of the album’s most metallic elements, it’s an album defined more by atmosphere and mood than by devotion to the genre. They swing wildly from jazz haunted to blastbeats; from John Zorn’s Tzadik Records to A forest of stars and giant squids. “How the Mighty Have Vision” bristles with the poisonous greatness of Lingua Ignota. Fraser Gordon’s riffs continually change shape in the remarkable track “Cable Street Again” as his strings create and destroy worlds. But Hostile Architecture is largely driven by Dunn’s possessed ravings and nimble drumming as he attacks the album’s central theme. Ashenspire are artists, with a mission statement.
“Hostile Architecture is a sonic exploration of the ways in which subjects under late capitalism are constrained and set in motion via the various structures that maintain stratification and oppression in urban contexts,” says Dunn. “It is inspired by the brutalist, postmodern and utilitarian architectural structures found in post-industrial cities, haunting in nature, designed to support the population through affordable housing, but ultimately exercises in cost reduction and unsuitable for use. The term hostile architecture refers to design elements in social spaces that deter the public from using the object for purposes not intended by the designer, for example anti-homeless spikes, which the album presents as emblematic of a fundamental disregard for the poor and the working class, an example of a status quo entrenched in concrete. The album challenges the listener to explore the dissonance of these contradictions in their own situation and perhaps to consider the possibilities of a world beyond what Mark Fisher has called “capitalist realism”.
“We are so grateful for the opportunity to share this music with you,” the band adds, “and that somewhere in all the commotion, you find something in it that resonates with you and connects you a little more to your popular companion. .”
Descend the stairwell in the concrete nightmare of Ashenspire Hostile Architecture below.
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