"some music was meant to stay underground..."

Ashenspire - "Speak Not of the Laudanum Quandary" (CD)

Ashenspire - "Speak Not of the Laudanum Quandary" CD cover image

"Speak Not of the Laudanum Quandary" track listing:

1. Restless Giants
2. The Wretched Mills
3. Mariners at Perdition's Lighthouse
4. Grievous Bodily Harmonie
5. A Beggar's Belief
6. Fever Sheds
7. Speak Not of the Laudanum Quandary

Reviewed by on January 16, 2017

"For those who crave something outside the norm, the album successfully brings to mind an earlier time when metal was legitimately underground and experimental before digital downloads and instant information sort of ruined everything."

How does Code666 keep doing it? The label just consistently grabs hold of the most interesting underground entities that offer significantly more on the musical front than the predictable big name metal bands. Recent signing Ashenspire keeps that reputation going strong with an avant-garde take on music that features a very strong throwback to cult metal days before the advent of the Internet, when every new band was a hard-fought discovery.

Ashenspire strongly brings to mind the near-mythical Devil Doll, a bizarre musical creation with equally bizarre mastermind Mr. Doctor (who was known as much for his odd antics and secretive nature as the music). Much like with Devil Doll, there's a very strange but also very compelling brew of atmospheric instrumental sections, full-force metal, and “sprechgesang” style voice overs. If you fondly remember discovering “The Girl Who Was... Death” back in the '90s, you will be right at home with "Speak Not of the Laudanum Quandary.”

These seven tracks gleefully offer up unhinged screaming over wobbly violins, shift gears into piano and guitar solos layered atop one another, then ditch those in favor of atmospheric instrumental segments. All that and more might appear in any given 9 – 10 minute track. No matter what style is being presented, the album is incredibly theatric, and fans of Root will also find lots to love here.

I'm not going to sugar coat this one: you absolutely have to be into the much weirder aspects of metal to fully appreciate “Speak Not of the Laudanum Quandary,” with its odd vocals and avant-garde take on musical composition. For those who crave something outside the norm though, the album successfully brings to mind an earlier time when metal was legitimately underground and experimental before digital downloads and instant information sort of ruined everything.

Highs: The ghost of Devil Doll resurrected in an even more metal-focused 2016 incarnation

Lows: Some of the most bizarre aspects are going to turn off the casual listener, and there are a few places that could use a bit more of a modern polish

Bottom line: If you know who Mr. Doctor is, you need to buy this album immediately.

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)