[8/10] The normally experimental and noise-based Exile on Mainstream label doesn't sign bands like Rising. If they were a cross-hybrid-extreme-avant-garde ensemble, then yeah, it would make sense, but for the label's second "non-whacked-out" band (the other being End of Level Boss), Rising goes against the grain of everything the label typically stands for. The resultant To Solemn Ash emerges as a chip off the 'ole traditional metal/sludge cutting block, and in turn, becomes perhaps the most significant album released on Exile On Mainstream.
If one didn't peruse the band's bio, then instant assumptions that Rising were American would be made. They definitely have a handle on the distortion-overdrive-happy sound of Kylesa, High on Fire, and even Mastodon, although the band's reliance on harmonies would place them into Thin Lizzy category. And as much as the band is a sum of their influences, the quality of the tunes on To Solemn Ash are simply top-notch. There's no other way to put it.
Singer/bassist Henrik Waldemar Hald is the oft-portrayed hulking vocalist, which a hearty bellow that dips in out of being decipherable. Nevertheless, he trades blows with searing melodic guitar action on opener "Mausoleum," and "Cohorts Rise," which is probably the pick of the litter. Guitarist Jacob Krogholt is the album's all-star, possessing a wide array of classic metal and sludge-tastic riffs at his disposal, most of which have more potency than their contemporaries.
A three-piece banging out classic metal with a sludge angle might bring out the Grand Magus (who should be huge) comparisons, yet the manner in which Rising builds their songs effectively places them into their own little sphere. As we noted above, To Solemn Ash is a release that practically goes against everything Exile on Mainstream puts out, but man, it's a stormer, and an album not to be fucked with. Dudes with beards are scary.