REVIEW: Castevet – “Mounds of Ash” CD 2010

Castevet mounds of ash cover“The lyrics pertain mostly to escapism. I tend to utilize surrealistic descriptions to convey the feeling of being confined to the realities of existence, and the need to escape despite inevitable impossibility.”

Well this is helpful. This is a quote from Andrew Hock, guitarist and vocalist of New York City based extreme metal band Castevet. Castevet or perhaps their label Profound Lore made the aggravating decision not to print the lyrics to Mounds of Ash in the CD booklet. Actually they did away with the booklet altogether. This inevitably detracts from the enjoyment and understanding of their fantastic debut album, especially considering I literally cannot understand a single word being sung by Andrew.

A sense of failed escape from some relentless force is definite feeling one gets listening to this record. This is an unsettling record. Unsettling yet peppered with memorable riffs. Australia’s Portal comes to mind by way of comparison. Similarly Castevet is noisy and dissonant yet melodic. There are also some similarities to Enslaved and of course you can’t talk of dissonant heavy metal without mentioning the pioneering Voivod.

Castevet are often referred to as Black Metal. This is mostly inaccurate as they don’t sing about Satan and don’t have the typical black metal vocal style. They do have a fair amount of tremolo picking which is the only stylistically black metal thing on this record. I would categorize them as Death Metal. What’s really appealing about them besides the stunning compositions is that they have a very distinctive sound. Their recording is raw and organic. The drumming is way outside the norm for modern death metal both in the playing style and the production choices. It’s nice to hear death metal where the bass drums aren’t the loudest thing on the record!

Despite the varied drumming, the guitars dominate Mounds of Ash. They are clearly the loudest thing in the mix and occasionally brought up to an oppressive level of saturation. This only adds to sense of menace. As with the drums, Castevet’s guitar tone is atypical and unique in character. And guess what? No sweeps. Hell no guitar solos whatsoever as far I recall. This is not a record of self indulgent, flashy, and robotically precise musicianship. This is an album of original riffs cleverly arranged into ruthless, vicious songs. Disquieting songs filled with tension and hostility. Agitating, tumultuous, and inescapable.