Review & Full Album Premiere: Apostle of Solitude, From Gold to Ash

Apostle of Solitude From Gold to Ash

[Click play above to stream Apostle of Solitude’s From Gold to Ash in its entirety. Album is out this week on Cruz Del Sur Music.]

Understand: I had reasonably high expectations for Apostle of Solitude‘s fourth album. No reason not to, frankly. Since making a splash a decade ago with their debut full-length, Sincerest Misery (discussed here), they’ve never failed to move forward either in their approach or overall quality of output. That was the case as 2010’s Last Sunrise (review here) followed and set the stage for its own follow-up, Of Woe and Wounds (review here), in 2014. Now, between those two records a pivotal change was made in the band that saw founding guitarist/vocalist Chuck Brown and drummer Corey Webb bring aboard guitarist/vocalist Steve Janiak, also of Ripple Music heavy rockers Devil to Pay, to add complement to Brown‘s emotional delivery and thickness and volume to the sound overall. The short version is it worked.

The long version is it worked splendidly. And while it would be rational to imagine that a band whose output across three records has always been geared toward a healthy amount of progression would continue to progress, the fourth Apostle of Solitude, titled From Gold to Ash and issued as their second for knows-its-metal-imprint Cruz Del Sur, surpasses any and all expectations one might’ve placed on it. To be blunt, it is the kind of album that bands go their entire careers trying to make. And I fully recognize that sounds like hyperbole, but as executions of American doom metal go, there’s really nothing more one could ask of these seven tracks, which have weight in their atmosphere and emotion as much as their riffs, huge grooves cut through by melancholic harmonies between Janiak and Brown, and a continued development in songcraft that has produced some of the most memorable Apostle of Solitude material to-date.

In several important ways, From Gold to Ash is a direct follow-up to Of Woe and Wounds, and I think even the construction of the two titles hints at that. Now rounded out by bassist Mike Naish, the band returned to Mike Bridavsky to helm the recording, with whom they’ve worked since Last SunriseBridavsky brought a notable shift in clarity to Of Woe and Wounds, and that’s something From Gold to Ash continues. Apostle of Solitude sound unabashedly melodic, and though they’re distorted, rumbling, crashing and heavy, tracks like “Ruination be Thy Name” and “My Heart is Leaving Here” prove spacious enough to allow for dynamic changes in volume and tempo and overall feel, and across the 43-minute offering, the band creates a mire that’s as much heart-rending as it is headbang-worthy, their plod worthy of earliest Trouble even as they call out Pentagram‘s Be Forewarned on the penultimate “Monochrome (Discontent)” en route to rolling closer “Grey Farewell.”

The interaction between Brown and Janiak on vocals and guitar, frankly, is the most outward point of growth on the part of the band — that is, the easiest to perceive — and this makes sense. It would have to be. Either proves capable of taking the frontman position for a given song — Janiak plays that role in Devil to Pay — but it’s in cuts like centerpiece highlight “Keeping the Lighthouse” (video posted here) and in the chorus of “Ruination by Thy Name,” which arrives following the extended intro “Overlord” and delivers both an irresistible swaying groove and much of the lyrical perspective in the line, “To be wounded, and to be maimed, is to exist,” in a midsection break following the second and not-at-all final runthrough of one of From Gold to Ash‘s most resonant hooks.

Apostle of Solitude

It’s telling that the band would separate “Ruination by Thy Name” and “Keeping the Lighthouse” by the quiet 90-second guitar interlude “Autumn Moon,,” allowing the listener to properly recover from the one before moving onto the next, but they do no such favors when it comes to From Gold to Ash‘s final three tracks — a salvo that begins with the 10-minute “My Heart is Leaving here” and continues with “Monochrome (Discontent)” and the finale “Grey Farewell),” both of which top seven minutes and thus are longer than either “Ruination by Thy Name” (6:37) and “Keeping the Lighthouse” (a tidy 6:23). The reason that matters is because after “Keeping the Lighthouse” crashes to its end, “My Heart is Leaving Here” picks up with quiet, echoing guitar and seems to move the album into a different section entirely — it’s the moment where the listener enters “the thick of it.”

Slower, more depressive, more regret-filled, the calls and responses of “My Heart is Leaving Here” are a point at which From Gold to Ash reaches a new stage of expressiveness, and likewise becomes more immersive. It is doomed revelry of the highest order, building toward a guitar solo and huge lumbering finish in which a cymbal wash gives way to the drum fill at the beginning of “Monochrome (Discontent),” on which Janiak seems to take the forward vocal position as he did on “Luna” from Of Woe and Wounds, with results no less successful. Another sorrowful lyric and rolling riff gives way to a stretch of minimal guitar and punching bass after the halfway point — a bridge, essentially, and not a long one — but the peaceful moment is effective in conveying Apostle of Solitude‘s overarching dynamic and the various means through which they’re able to convey a forlorn spirit.

“Monocrhome (Discontent)” drags itself to its ending without another word and “Grey Farewell” crashes in with a suitable largesse of plod before settling into a middle-paced push through one last trade between verse and hook that seems to summarize the various aspects of From Gold to Ash that have worked so well across both sides of the release. There might be a flourish of hope in the dual-layered/dual-channel guitar solo about three-quarters of the way through, but as one recalls the line, “No time can cure the rising anguish” from “My Heart is Leaving Here” and the shouted delivery of “anguish” as a part of that, the impression overall of From Gold to Ash is long since set. Its depressiveness is resonant throughout, but there’s nothing theatrical or overblown about Apostle of Solitude‘s delivery throughout. No drama, no pretense, no wasted time. The sincerity with which From Gold to Ash is executed is one of its great strengths, and while that’s been a key factor to the band’s aesthetic since their beginning, they’ve simply never reached the level they do here.

Let me be blunt: When 2018 is over, From Gold to Ash will have been one of its finest doom releases. Despite its downer sensibility, it is an utter triumph of form, and it should put Apostle of Solitude in a new echelon of consideration as one of the US’ finest purveyors of modern doom. It is a significant accomplishment, and one that should not be ignored or passed over for any reason. Recommended.

Apostle of Solitude, “Keeping the Lighthouse” official video

Apostle of Solitude on Thee Facebooks

Cruz del Sur Music website

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