Ashbel comes from Australia and manages to incorporate a range of heavy influences that can be old school or experimental. Their debut...

Ashbel: Sound as Catharsis

Ashbel comes from Australia and manages to incorporate a range of heavy influences that can be old school or experimental. Their debut album Deluge is a colossal work that is inspired by the sonic experimentations of avant-garde Japanese bands and the result is a special kind of catharsis that is experienced through the unrelenting melodies.

This quintet, despite their influences, were able to create a sonic beats of its own, with a unique and captivating identity.

- How did Ashbel take form? Is there a meaning or story behind the name?
Khoa: Mutual friends who became good friends formed Ashbel. Ashbel is a corruption of Asbel, a Studio Ghibli character, although we do not put much further meaning behind the name.

- Your sound covers a lot of sonic territories and is richly textured. What projects/bands/artists can you cite as major influences?
Khoa: A lot of very innovative Japanese bands – mainly ENDON, SWARRRM, Stubborn Father, and early 2000s American hardcore bands like Jeromes Dream, Orchid, etc. but also the old masters like Marc Ribot, Link Wray, and Diamanda Galas.

Lulu: Thank you for picking up on those layers; seeing through the surface-level sonics really means a lot and frankly something we put a great deal of deliberateness into. More often I personally feel inspired by (and am forever in awe of) my friends and peers operating in the local experimental music scene who truly bleed and live their art: Diploid, Uboa, just to name a few… all these projects set out to setting out to push the(ir) envelope with how they communicate a most inner praxis, and I find all their determinations and aspirations nothing short of incredible.

- You were also responsible for the artwork, what concept(s) did you wish to express?
Khoa: Gargoyles and GODFLESH.

- The overall feeling in your sonic universe is one of emotional urgency. What themes do you feel more inclined to write and sing about?
Khoa: Postmodernism.

Lulu: It’s… difficult to pin down. All of the band’s lyrics and approaches to their delivery are entirely inside Jarvis’ realm who holds these song’s intentions and meanings tightly bound to their heart. Therefore I can only speak from where Khoa and I are coming from. I agree with Khoa that a great deal of Postmodernist thought plays a heavy role in Ashbel – after all, having complimentary worldviews is certainly where we get along. It’s only natural that commonality and shared ground bleeds into our creative process. Musical inspiration often feels more potent and fluid when things are going wrong, knowing that our listeners are not alone in their suffering and that we’re all connected to ideas of shared trauma in a very personal way, resultant growth together, and intrinsic values very much reflected in the realm of ‘head’ music with ideas posed by the Frankfurt school of theory, Alain Badiou, etc. amongst many others. Going back to that initial spark though, within all projects/collaborations I consciously choose to involve myself in, it’s a persistent mining for understanding the incomprehensible beasts that are anxiety and Bad Shit which reflects in any troubled mind. I operate and create soundscapes within this minefield because it’s the only thing that made any sort of sense over the years in an intimate kind of way? Forever in pursuit of unexplainable existentials, a je ne sais quoi that I think any interesting art worth a fuck should at least try striving towards reaching.

- How do you feel the reception to your debut album has been so far?
Khoa: Meh!

Lulu: It’s been quite fascinating to see how a spectrum of music listeners take to our particular sound; whether they’re willing to take a seat inside our vehicle re-evaluating what they hold dear to their heart, and to see what people -get- out of our music, ideally applied to understanding unaddressed parts of their selves better.

- What most fascinates in black metal?
Khoa: Good riffs.

Lulu: Introspective strands which could be explored further to a potential more fitting of where we are in today’s world, and where we’re headed. Not so much ‘forcing the obvious’ but illuminating said uncomfortable space into a blossom to celebrate in all its crying glory is what truly fascinates me. Riffs too, of course.

- How have you been surviving and working in these difficult times with the pandemic?
Khoa: Music has kept us sane and regular.

Lulu: Initially the pandemic fallout has been rough on our traction – we’ve had our first interstate run of live shows supporting Deluge thrown into utter disarray as a result. We were immensely crestfallen because we were looking so forward to presenting said material in a live setting to new audiences -- if you’re familiar with our improvisation-heavy arrangements to live shows with the barest skeleton of our songs gluing things together, it's pretty clear that the impression of Ashbel ‘on record’ is very different to our gigs. Getting our music out there at the unforgiving mercy of the live aspect meant a great deal to our ethos. So… having that taken away temporarily fucking sucked. Nevertheless, our various sideprojects have taken precedence helping tide, keeping our creative juices flowing, carving out new ways of working. And all of our genuine inabilities to be tied down plays a big part in it too – whether it be coping with ever-evolving life circumstances or transitioning towards a more consonant state of existing and co-existing amongst one other. No matter which way you slice it a matter of sheer survival is a pertinent one.

- What projects have you set up for 2020 that you wish to reveal and share with us?
Khoa: We would like to release another album and we will also try to make it relevant to the current difficult times, to further express our very human emotions such as anxieties, hope, disdain, apathy and love.

Lulu: We’re in the exciting process of transmogrifying Ashbel’s core into that of a five-piece. Both of us have already tracked new demos together before deciding to expand our canvas, so expect the unexpected.

Text and Interview: Cláudia Zafre
Interviewees: Khoa and Lulu (Ashbel)