I must admit, I was late to the party on Brown Jenkins; I didn’t hear them until the inimitable Nathan T. Birk sent me a copy of Death Obsession while he was doing PR work for the once prominent black metal label Moribund Cult. I fell instantly in love with the band’s spellbinding attack, which blended elements of black metal, doom and gothic rock with an appropriately Lovecraftian sense of dread and crumbling sanity. I gave the album a glowing review for the now-defunct Sonic Frontiers(dot)net and subsequently came into contact with band mastermind Umesh Amtey. That correspondence blossomed into a friendship that I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying for several years now; although Amtey and I have never met in person, I consider him a close comrade and look forward to the day when we can raise our glasses together in the same room.

As a result of our friendship, I’ve had the distinct privilege of watching the next phase of Amtey’s musical journey come into being. The Ash Eaters shares some traits with Brown Jenkins, but is an all together different beast. The guitar-work is more complex, the arrangements are more frantic, attacking the listener from every direction, while at the same time remaining catchy and memorable; Amtey has drawn from a wide range of influences and pushed them forward in every way imaginable.

I’ve been waiting for my chance to interview Mr. Amtey, so when he finally gave Ruining You, the debut Ash Eaters full length, to the world after a string of shorter releases, I knew the time had finally come. While I’ve had many private conversations with him regarding his musical history, motivations, influences, etc, I wanted to afford my readers the same opportunity to learn more about this truly unique individual and the excellent music he’s been releasing over the past several years. I contacted Mr. Amtey via e-mail for the following interrogation.

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New music from The Ash Eaters.

The Ash Eaters have released a new two track digital EP, The Cruel Side via their bandcamp page.  For those not familiar, the band is the new project of former Brown Jenkins mastermind, Umesh Amtey.  Amtey is probably one of the most underrated guitarists in metal, his playing a schizophrenic locust swarm that attacks from all sides and encompasses elements of black metal, doom, gothic rock and beyond.  But as abrasive as this material may appear on the surface, it is also strangely catchy, the sheets of insectoid distortion burrowing deep into the inner recesses of your mind.  I’m listening to the EP for the first time as I type this; I’m already eager to listen further.  Amtey doesn’t just write songs, he creates musical labyrinths for the ears to explore.

Those of you familiar with The Ash Eaters’ Cold Hearts demo (also available via bandcamp), will instantly notice a distinct progression in playing and composition (as well as the return of Amtey’s Cthulu-esque vocal assault); indeed, the beautiful thing about this music is that it is constantly progressing, changing, morphing into something beyond the confines of extreme music.

I could say a lot more, but I’d rather let the music do the talking.  Go grab this now!

I’d also highly recommend stopping by The Ash Eaters’ blog to download their cover versions of the Misfits’s “Angelfuck” and “Death Comes Ripping.”

Fiends at Feast, The Ash Eaters and a bunch of other cool bands have Bandcamp pages… your band should too.

Invisible Oranges main man and fellow metalhead Cosmo Lee has extensively championed the use of Bandcamp (here and here).  He probably did it a hell of a lot better than I ever could, but considering that Fiends at Feast and The Ash Eaters, two bands I’ve been doing a little championing of my own for of late (I reviewed Fiends at Feast here and dished on The Ash Eaters demo here), have Bandcamp pages, I thought it was about time I weighed in.

Bandcamp blows Myspace out of the friggin’ water.  Bandcamp is simple, clean and uncluttered.  It takes the concept of bands using social networking as a promotional tool and strips it of all the nonsense that goes with it.  No friends, no spam, no frills, no bullshit.  Bandcamp is all about the music.  It gives fans easy access to high quality downloads without a bunch of bric-a-brac getting in the way of their enjoyment.  Just look at the screenshots included in this post.  Could it get anymore straightforward than that?  Highly doubtful.

Part of the reason for Myspace’s downfall is the high level of customizability.  Once bands realized they could slap oversized logos, a dozen videos, five million and one flyers, photo slideshows, etc on their pages, it was all over.  Chances are, if you’re an unsigned metal band from Oklahoma, someone from Japan listening to your music online doesn’t give a shit about the flyer from the hometown show you played five years ago or endless slideshows of you drinking beer with the local metal tarts.  In other words, Bandcamp forces bands to “keep it simple, stupid” and makes them look that much more professional in the process.  Trust me, if you want potential fans to take you seriously (not to mention potential labels), you’re better off leaving the drunken slideshows and fancy backgrounds to the teenage girls.

To make matters worse for Myspace (and the bands who try to use it), the one-time social-networking king recently went through a re-design that has rendered the site about as user-friendly as a Sasha Grey film with the sex scenes edited out.  I’m not sure what the hell they were thinking, but the end result has made Bandcamp’s spotless presentation, and easy to use media player even more appealing.  It amazes me that anyone even bothers to go on Myspace anymore and I’ve for the most part vowed not to post links to bands’ pages on the site unless it is the only option available for THKD readers to hear their music.

The Ash Eaters and Fiends at Feast couldn’t be more different musically, but both bands share a common goal.  They want as many folks as possible to get the chance to check out their music.  Bandcamp offers them the opportunity to do so in a way that is completely free of distractions, allowing the music to once again take precedence, something that had been lost amongst the dilapidated bells and whistles of Myspace.  It draws a straight line from listener to band, which is exactly how it should be.

Below are some more excellent bands that have pages on Bandcamp.

Sepulchre – blackened Canadian death-crust

Vastum – gnarly Cali death metal featuring ex members of Saros

Imperial Triumphant – East Coast baroque black metal

Murmuure – French ambient black/noise/drone/clusterfuck

The Sun Through a Telescope – Canadian feedback-worshipping power drone

The Ash Eaters

In the interest of full disclosure, let it be known that I consider The Ash Eaters mastermind UA a friend.  We’ve developed a correspondence that if memory serves goes back to a review I wrote of his previous project Brown Jenkins’ swan song, Death Obsession, for the now-defunct Sonic Frontiers site.

Even if we weren’t pen pals, I’d still be a fan of his music, especially his guitar playing.  UA’s guitars are alive.  They swarm and sing like a horde of locusts. They’re somehow melodic and dissonant at the same time, heavy and brittle and biting and hazy. His music, although certainly blackened, isn’t black metal, per se… it brings to mind visions of Varg Vikernes pistol-whipping Robert Smith and Daniel Ash in an abandoned cellar while Geordie Walker chain-smokes in the corner.  This is manic music with a bizarre pop sensibility.  It sticks to your ribs as it attempts to shatter them.

Cold Hearts is the inaugural demo from The Ash Eaters.  It is three songs, twenty-five odd minutes of instrumental delerium.  Although I miss UA’s Cthulhu-with-black-lung vocals from the Brown Jenkins era, his guitar-work and songwriting are compelling enough on their own.  If you’re familiar with Death Obsession, you’ll recognize Cold Hearts as similar, yet taken many steps forward from both a playing and compositional perspective.

I could go on, but I’d rather let you hear the music for yourselves.  You can listen to and download the Cold Hearts demo for free from The Ash Eaters bandcamp page HERE.  Or download it for free via mediafire HERE.