In 2013, vocalist Steve Black and multi-instrumentalist Michael Blenkam (Hryre, Wodensthrone) teamed up to create what would be known as Ahamkara, an Atmospheric Black Metal outfit hailing from the United Kingdom. In about a year, this duo composed four songs that would make-up their debut full-length album, The Embers of the Stars. Initially released by the band themselves on their now defunct Bandcamp account, the recording reached the ranks of Nordvis Records and Bindrune Records, the latter of which the band is currently signed with. Together they take this once digital only recording and give it a proper digipack pressing. But is it really something worth getting a physical copy of, or is this debut outing simply not worth getting riled up over?

While only four songs long, The Embers of the Stars clocks in at a little over forty seven minutes, not leaving a single track going under the ten minute mark. These extensive performances are laid out across crisp, vivid aural landscapes that harken back to the start of Melodic Black Metal, as well as the more modern blast beat driven entities. Shades of bands like Emperor and even Marduk can be found in the rich musical atmospheres being woven, jumping between visceral and emotionally moving at a moment's notice. The only thing relatively raw in execution end up being the vocals, which are fairly distant compared to the instruments right at the forefront of the mix.

"Midwinter's Hymn" introduces you to the furious side of the band. Cold winds and a traditional Norse Black Metal introduction start this cold sounding track, giving way to subtle hooks against steady faster drums and equally as quick sharpened riffs. The raspy wails and additional echo effects that storm in a little later cut at you like razors in the wind of the frostbitten terrain the music easily represents. However, as it slows approaching three minutes in, that dismal oppression gives way to hopeful warmth. Beautiful cleaner leads and an intimate, loud bass guitar presence pull you into a world of whimsy and wonder before crashing back to the hypothermic landscapes once more. And this is only four minutes in. What comes next are both worlds meshing together, ending on a far more epic level with additional keyboards hitting when you think things cannot get any more glorious.

"Lamentation of a Wraith" is about on par with "Midwinter's Hymn" as far as tension goes, but the chill in the air is replaced with that of a more humid presence that makes the tighter guitars and subtle keyboards in the background sound far more sinister. But, before you know it, things take on a haunting turn by the half way point, revoking the intensity for slower music and very faint melodies that you might not notice until the bass chimes in against them about six minutes in. From here it's best to lay back and take in the trip between aggression and often astral beauty and not question why as you slowly migrate into "To Invoke the Stars Themselves". The first two-and-a-half minutes will trick you into thinking this is an ambient track, but rest assured, it is not. Waves crashing to shore are met with additional effects and the dull pounding rhythm of a heart beat before slamming into hostile territory once more. Blast beats fill the air as complex chords move along fluidly until more waves crash, breaking up the hatred for moments of reflection.

Sadly, those transitioning bits on "To Invoke the Stars Themselves" are not the first time they appear. While that track manages to make them kind of work, they just end up causing the otherwise enjoyable "On the Shores of Defeat" to become a rocky experience. It starts with a depressing build that comes off more like a hymn that perfectly suits the gradual layer of frost taking form over the increasingly tighter performance. For the most part, it doesn't quite live up to the tense atmospheres established towards the start. In fact, some of it ends up broken when the pace slows and gives way to more wave sound effects. Thankfully the bass guitar still brings in that intimate sensation to hold everything together until things pick back up by the eight minute mark, making the struggle to stay in the mood relatively worth going through.

For about a year's work, Ahamkara's debut outing is easily one of the more impressive, fluid sounding Atmospheric Black Metal recordings to come out in recent years. The only gripe to be had is the reliance on the sound of crashing waves in two songs to signal the shift between hostile and melodic beauty instead of a natural transition that the other two songs possess. The Embers of the Stars winds up an inspirational outing, leaving you brushing off what permafrost the warmer, intimate melodies couldn't melt, thus proving the artistic abilities this duo have to weave both worlds seamlessly. Right out the gate, Ahamkara prove themselves to be a band you really need to keep an eye on, leaving you to wonder just what this band will unleash with a little more growth over the years, not to mention what they can accomplish with a little more composition time. If you're a fan of the style, r wildly opposed to it, The Embers of the Stars is something you absolutely must hear.

Review originally composed for Apoch's Metal Review.