Ashen, the Taipei progenitor of the Taiwanese grind scene, has kept to the tried and true grindcore formula of releasing EPs and splits thus far in their career, specializing in short, furious songs that are the letter bomb of the genre, Ashen first announced its presence in recorded form with a split release alongside Usepentosing. Ashen’s first track on the disc, Deal, is a filthy and dark mix of punk and grind, with old school death metal vocals that fall into hammer-on speed riffs in the vein of grind greats such as Brutal Truth and Terrorizer. It’s a crusty mix of death metal crossover and socially conscious hardcore from this trio that has since expanded into a four piece.
Rounding out this brief intro to Ashen is Moral Decay. The song’s sludgy beginnings roll along like a tank over the trenches—simple but monstrously effective. Without warning the track spins into pure grinding intensity and rollicking punk. A rapid fire vocal delivery accentuates the palm-muted chug and memorable riffs. It’s punishing with nary a lull and at no point does the energy lag or the attitude lack.
Ashen’s next offering was the four-song H1N1 EP. This effort begins with Hymns of Hate. A rumbling bass intro brings the track toward a climactic guitar riff which is drawn into chaotic blast beat grind. The vocalist’s trademark breakneck vocal pace and screeching backing vocals provide punch behind back and forth power chord riffage. It’s grind meets Deicide, walking a jagged line between grind and death metal that meanders lucidly between the two.
On the second song, Conscience, Ashen mixes modern elements of grind stalwarts such as Misery Index with influences from grind’s old guard such as Assuck and old era Napalm Death. Old school, thrashing grind with rock solid drum rolls paint a desperate and dark picture, as do the layered vocals from the high and low end.
The EP’s title track then blasts right out of the starting blocks with start-stop, string bending ferocity that keeps the listener on edge. The experimental element of the unexpected and unease keeps the interest level high. The duty of closing out the mini-album falls to Doing Evil, which again comes blasting from the gate with the drummer utilizing the ride for ringing effect. A shout-along chorus brings in the catchiness factor of this straight ahead, pummeling track that is meant to be heard live. Punk attitude and the grind ethos go hand in hand with Ashen. The band’s music doesn’t overstay its welcome. It just napalms the landscape and flies out at Mach 3 like a devastating fire-and-forget mission.