Black Ash Gig Review - The Bridge Hotel (16/12/2017)
Let’s not beat around the bush – nothing beats a live metal band, and there are a few in the North East right now with a truly raw, polished and brazen sound.
Black Ash is one of those bands…
From their opener, ‘Toxicity and Aerials’ (System of a Down), the musicianship is apparent and paramount, planting you firmly in your seat with a justified smile on your face.
The filthy, yet crunchy, vintage guitar tones, the calculated and effective dynamics – drummer Charlie Davis knows his toms – and the folk-inspired harmonies driven by backing vocals of both lead and bass guitar (Matt Ciechanowicz and John Brownless, respectively) bring a professionalism and sheer energy, confirming you came to the right venue.
Donning the stage in a misleadingly innocent Pokémon t-shirt, lead vocalist Erin Cusack brings a passionate punch and a certain venom to the mic, with a surprising rasp that owns both the stage and the audience.
Lead guitarist Matt marries immaculate tone with practised use of tapping, hybrid picking and coherent FX usage to inspire budding, and indeed seasoned, metalheads. His chemistry with co-guitarist Jordan Brownless brings flawless harmonies alive into their well-orchestrated mix. Jordan demonstrates intricate (yet somehow effortless) riffs in ‘Blind Man’ (Black Stone Cherry) and ‘Walk’ (Pantera) on a shockingly gorgeous guitar – think Bengal tiger.
Most of us are fans of Alien Ant Farm’s cover of ‘Smooth Criminal’ – I know I am – what I’m not sure about is how well it fits in a live set. Yes, the opening riff erupts a wide-eyed look at the nearest human, but that’s mainly because we want to dance. Poorly. At a metal gig though, the song’s existing monotony (albeit successful in pop) should maybe be left at the door.
On the flip side of that metal coin (get it?), is ‘Psycho’, Black Ash’s magnum opus.
A bold statement: their version is more powerful than Muse’s. Erin plays the role of the dominant, soul-crushing US Army Captian, and Matt as the soldier being ‘broken’, and that dynamic is beyond priceless. She screams at him like she hates his guts; he dogmatically and regimentally responds as if he’ll shine her boots after the show.
The performance was so convincing that I had to meet them after the show just to make sure they were actually mates…
Just when we think it’s all over, Erin invites on stage musicians already in the audience to sing ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’ as a finale.
Have you ever experienced raw angst abruptly replaced by festive comradery? Because now I have.
I do my best not to reuse adjectives, but for the night I had seeing these guys, I’ll break that rule; Black Ash are raw.
For fans of: Papa Roach, Rage Against The Machine, System of a Down
Standout tracks: ‘Psycho’ (Muse), ‘Killing in the Name’ (RATM), ‘Walk’ (Pantera)
Photography by Eden Jackson