We’re a newly formed Atmospheric Black Metal duo, hailing from the green wastes of Umbria (Central Italy). Ashlands are: me (as in the one that’s typing these words, nom de guerre: Wanderer) who composes and produces all of the music, as well as the visual and conceptual aspects behind it; Vanguard, who’s responsible for the main vocal assault, and also partakes in shaping the songs, both lyrically and structure-wise.
I have been steadily ruminating this project’s material for years now, but only in 2018, after joining forces with Vanguard, I felt that Ashlands was mature enough to come out of the shadows, in the form of a three-track EP that will confront the light of day on September 30th as “Ashlands I”: “An Entrance Beneath the Dunes” (10:23); “Pyre” (7:57); “Amber” (6:27).
A lot of effort and passion went – and is going – into this project, and we hope that some of that energy ends up resonating with the listeners!
2.You have an ep coming out during the end of September, can you tell us a little bit more about the musical style you went for on the recording?
In its earliest incarnations, Ashlands’ musical focus was the no compromises, cinematic brand of Epic Black Metal forerunners like Summoning are known to deal in. In time, while remaining to some degree faithful to this formula (mainly in certain orchestral passages and in the fantasy-oriented lyrics), a broader set of musical influences and stimuli, along with a drive to experiment with the genre boundaries, pushed our music to strange new landscapes, until it ultimately found its form: a balance between an unyielding Black Metal heart, and a folk-tinged, ever present surge towards atmosphere, melody and introspection.
3.What are some of the lyrical topics and subjects you have explored so far with your music?
The thing that always fascinated me about epic fantasy, is the constant duality of its every meaning: there’s the distance, the remoteness of the “superficial”, outermost narrative – with its magnificent vistas, its marvels, the boundless freedom of the imagination; and then there’s the “ocean beneath the waves”, and that ocean is Us, as Mankind – a direct and powerful representation of our sincerest emotional core: love, grief, nostalgia, pain, happiness, hope, despair.
And this is basically what we strive for, in our lyrics: through the medium of high fantasy and the epic narrative topos of the journey, we try our hardest to illuminate, for a brief moment, the intimate corners of our communal human nature.
4.The new ep is also going to be a part of a 3 part ep trilogy, can you tell us a little bit more about this concept?
The trilogy will follow the earthly odyssey of a group of nameless pilgrims, who’s fleeing from their homeland devastated by war: first through the ominous Ashlands – once the home of a myth-shrouded ancestral civilization; now, after centuries of tremendous volcanic eruptions, a suffocating landscape of ash and gaping underground ruins –, then through the many perils and wonders of an increasingly hostile yet spellbinding world.
An equally physical and spiritual journey towards their doom (the duality we spoke of earlier), as the shadow of Death closes in upon them – and then beyond.
5.What is the meaning and inspiration behind the name 'Ashlands'?
The distant inspiration behind it is a volcanic region, precisely the Ashlands, surrounding the Red Mountain in Morrowind, third entry in Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls game series – even though our concept doesn’t rely in the slightest upon the lore of the Elder Scrolls in the way, just so we’re clear, Summoning or Caladan Brood do respectively with The Lord of the Rings and the Malazan book series.
Way back when I played Morrowind a lot, I was always struck by the sheer evocativeness and the desolate, almost alien beauty of that area of the game. So much, in fact, that an echo of its name, Ashlands, came naturally to mind upon naming the fiery, barren starting point of our trilogy’s journey, during the embryonic stages of “An Entrance Beneath the Dunes.”
6.Can you tell us a little bit more about the artwork that is presented on the ep cover?
It depicts the Ashlands: scorching hot, vast, constantly shrouded in an ashy mist; and I think it does a good job of capturing their hellish, indefinite allure – or even better yet, the impression it makes on the conscience of our pilgrims, as the region and the great volcano seemingly hold a towering spot in their collective image and mythology.
7.Currently there are only 2 members in the band, are you open to expanding the line up or do you prefer to remain a duo?
Ashlands will remain, at least for the foreseeable future, a duo, but we don’t necessarily rule out the possibility of a line up expansion. We’re also considering the possibility of drawing up a live-oriented formation of Ashlands, although at the moment this is not much more than a beguiling idea.
8.Currently you are unsigned, are you looking for a label or have received any interest?
Not presently: what matters the most to us as of now is to get our music out there, and we feel it would be premature to start contacting labels without anything to show for ourselves, or even knowing in the slightest if what we play has an actual impact on the public of a such a crowded musical scene, on which scale, if any. That’s why we decided to go the self-produced, digital route for the time being – even though we’d love to collaborate with a label in the future, or to see a physical release of our music.
9.Where do you see the band heading into musically during the future?
Since we almost finished recording “Ashlands II”, and “Ashlands III” is in the final stages of its composition, we can actually give you a pretty clear indication of where the trilogy is going, musically: while the overall style won’t change radically, “II” will certainly be somewhat heavier; “III” on the other hand – following a drastic twist in the Ashlands storyline – will be more meditative and introspective, and the music will at times approach Ambient territories.
10.What are some of the bands or musical styles that have had an influence on your music and also what are you listening to nowadays?
Again, our music’s first beacons were Summoning and Caladan Brood, then Black Metal at large: the atmospheres of Agalloch, Ulver, Dimmu Borgir and Falls of Rauros; early-to-mid Alcest (especially 2012’s “Les Voyages De L'Âme”), the emotional weight of Der Weg Einer Freiheit, the claustrophobic guitar sound of The Ruins of Beverast; influences from Moonsorrow, Bathory, Falkenbach and Elvenking are also definitely present in some of the more folk-oriented passages and melodies.
What we’re listening to nowadays: as for me, very little Black, with the exception of The Clearing Path’s excellent “Watershed Between Firmament and the Realm of Hyperborea”. A lot of Wagner, mostly; Devourment’s new mind-shattering beast, “Obscene Majesty”, and Fat White Family’s “Serfs Up!” also get regular and frequent spins. Vanguard is really digging the new Mgła’s “Age of Excuse”; also Doom:VS’ “Earthless” and Messa’s “Feast for Weather”.
11.Does Paganism or Occultism play any role in your music?
They both do, in the sense that they hold a rather extensive importance when it comes to the world of Ashlands and the way that we present it lyrics-wise – which is to say from the point of view of the pilgrims themselves. Their outlook on life is clearly pagan, and they also have to confront a world in which supernatural forces play a very prominent, often active role.
12.Before we wrap up this interview, do you have any final words or thoughts?
Nothing other than thank you for the space you gave us, both in this interview and in your review of “Ashlands I”, and that for anyone interested – while we remind you that the full EP is coming out on September 30th (Bandcamp, name your price) – you can already listen to the second track, “Pyre”, which is premiered right now on our BC page (https://ashlandsmusic.bandcamp.com/track/pyre-track-premiere) and on YT (https://youtu.be/rXk6g_EQNLA). Hail!