Sound — 9
We've all heard this before. The sensitive blackened folk, filled with dense emotion and beauty. Don't let the ages of Isaac Symonds and Ray Hawes fool you, they've crafted a pure and mature effort on Ast. Cloaked in atmosphere, this album involves a variety of folky passages as well as the typical black metal fare. At this point in time, one may consider their sound overdone and derivative, however Skagos manage to stand above the sea of post-black metal through some genuinely interesting music and structures. On first listen, elements of Fen, Fauna and Wolves in the Throne Room are apparent as well as some from earlier waves of black metal. Occasionally some extended passages seem to drag on but are essentially made up for by the more intersting sections of the album.
Lyrics — 8
Symonds utilizes a mid range rasp as well as some clean singing throughout the record which is perfectly suited to the music. While there is not much variety apparent in the vocals, it does not truly serve as a hindrance to Ast. The record focusses on themes of misanthropy and nature. 'The drums pound every night in a glorious celebration of life! The earth is bountiful and rich-fertilized and multiplied' could be seen as an illusion to the destruction of the environment yet also as a symbolisation of the circle of life. Once again, these paganistic themes are nothing new to the realm of black metal but are executed with striking maturity.
Overall Impression — 9
Through interesting song-writing, Skagos make something fresh of a quickly stagnating genre. Much like the other bands in the 'Cascadian' scene of black metal, a purifying essence is present in the music as well as a depth of sorrow which is clearly explored in the album. Ast is a notable record not because it sets out to do something entirely new, but expounds on it with great emotion and determination.