The Thing About Ablaze My Sorrow’s ‘Among Ashes and Monoliths’

What is Swedish melodic death metal if not awesome?

Photo by author.

Note: The Thing About is a new series of short, simple heavy metal reviews that I’m starting. Scroll down to the headings that interest you or read the whole thing. I am no longer part of the Medium Partner Program, so I don’t stand to make any money off my posts. Instead, give me some claps so I know someone’s reading, feel free to share the post on social media, and — better yet — drop me a comment with your thoughts on the post, band, album, genre or heavy metal in general.

I should go to Sweden someday. Occasionally, usually through music, I’m reminded that it must be one of the raddest places in the world. If I ever get there, my journey will have begun when I first heard In Flames upon the release of Sounds of a Playground Fading in 2011. I was late to the Swedish melodic death metal scene, but it sure has been fun getting caught up. The latest band to catch my attention is Ablaze My Sorrow, which released Among Ashes and Monoliths in 2021.

The Band

Ablaze My Sorrow is from Falkenberg. The band released its debut album If Emotions Still Burn on No Fashion Records in 1996 at a time when melodic death metal was taking off, and it went on to complete a three-record deal by 2002. After a 14-year hiatus, the band returned with Black on Apostasy Records in 2016, then took another five years before releasing Among Ashes on Black Lion Records. Given the pessimism of the album’s themes, perhaps the COVID-19 epidemic served as unfortunate inspiration for primary lyricist and vocalist Jonas Udd.

The Music

Among Ashes scratches the melodic death metal itch. Aside from a few seconds of synth strings at the beginning of “My Sorrow,” the album spares listeners a throwaway intro before charging ahead like it’s the mid-Nineties: melodic guitars, driving drums and mid-range, anguished growls. The band also includes clear vocals (“Black Waters”), female vocals (“Her Cold Embrace”) and an instrumental (“March of the Eldritch Spawn”). These touches ensure the album has a classic sound without following a template, whether someone else’s or the band’s own.

The Art

The cover art refers directly to the album’s lyrics. Central to Mustapha Design DZ’s illustration is a broken classical statue. A monolith of sorts, it connects motivically to “At the Grave of Giants,” about a sculptor who violently casts beauty in stone. While they aren’t monoliths in the usual sense, however, I see the surrounding trees — leafless, black and gray — as the true monoliths. This imagery is from the title track, which takes a look at the lifeless world that awaits if our species continues to be a plague upon what could have been paradise. From that perspective, the black sphere in the background is a representation of the “Nonexistence,” which eventually swallows us all.

The Thing About

The thing about Ablaze My Sorrow is the band’s style. When Guitariste Metal asked guitarist and songwriter Magnus Carlsson about whether the band was influenced by the big three of Gothenburg death metal — In Flames, Dark Tranquillity and At the Gates — he answered yes and added Eucharist, another band that’s been around since the Nineties but hasn’t rushed to pump out albums. Nothing on Among Ashes is as molten a jet of melodic death metal as older material like “If Emotions Still Burn,” but it’s an impressive collection of tracks.

The Verdict

In conclusion, Ablaze My Sorrow astounds on Among Ashes and Monoliths by playing old-school melodic death metal with distinguishing elements that keep the genre alive and interesting. When sometimes even the biggest bands sound like they’re short on innovation or trying too hard to go new directions, Ablaze My Sorrow has delivered a solid album through moderate embellishment of a now classic sound.

Rating: 3.5/5

Image by author.

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J.P. Williams

J.P. Williams

I write about the intersection of arts and ideas.