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Ascension - The Dead of the World - 70%

ThrashManiacAYD, February 13th, 2015

Arriving as a Christmas gift to all at the tail end of 2014, "The Dead of the World" is the second album from German black metallers Ascension; a name only brought to my attention with the recent announcement of their upcoming headlining European tour with Bölzer and Deströyer 666, among others. Unexpected in how it might sound upon receipt I have found myself impressed with the conviction of the seven tracks borne over multiple plays, as well as the overall listenability of the dark complexities of the record, yet both in their inferior similarities to more well-known acts in the genre and a shortage of truly memorable moments does this end up sounding a decent record for the genre at best.

Fans of the digestible, orthodox end of the BM spectrum undoubtedly headed by Watain should find plenty to enjoy here as it evidenced in the strong opening track, "The Silence of Abel". Rarely can get a band get away with displaying a limited comprehension of differing speeds and Ascension show just this through strong usage of intermittently used lead guitars, sparing passages of blasts and jangling bridging sections to help the above-average track lengths flow smoothly past. The more brooding "Death’s Golden Temple" opens with an atmospheric lead and displays a great deal of patience before only upping the ante mid-way through it’s 9 minutes, yet when they do I rarely find myself at the precipice of excitement; such is the level of imagination and artistic effort being expended constantly across the genre today that solid displays such as this fall into a no-man’s-land of unheralded, commendable achievement. The following tracks "Black Ember" and "Unlocking Tiamat" - the only two under 7 minutes long - display what passes for Ascension at their most straight-forward, the former being a physical, unsubtle hammering while the latter builds off a slow winding opening into a similar rhythmic pattern to fellow Germans Secrets of the Moon. The oft-kilter directions of the lead riffing and disjointed cycles of the background rhythm, settled as they are under the croaking vocal delivery, provide ample amounts of darkness and worth of revisit but with neither the sheer power of an Arkhon Infaustus nor the self-congratulatory nature of Watain’s material it just doesn’t hit home as forcefully as I would like.

Why is it the spiralling leads in "Deathless Light", numerous of which possess much of the darkened majesty crucial to a work of this type, don’t rise to the same degree as some of the luminaries mentioned? I’m going to suggest the production, which is almost too clear and layered for it’s own good, sucking out the aura of vitriol that marks earlier Watain records out so much. "The Dark Tomb Shines" hits the right notes with a potent smash and grab feel to the faster moments, driven onwards by the unnamed drummer (unnamed like the rest of the band, too) while the lengthy closing track plays broadly along the same path: noteworthy lead guitar work providing the bulk of Ascension’s direction through the plethora of cavernous of deep worlds explored in amongst periods of relative calm as the band decide on where to head next.

In a sense "The Dead of the World" is almost too on-target for it’s own good, the carefully considered track flows and varied tempos make it easily perceptible from first listen, but the lack of there being that cutting edge which would push the German troupe to the upper echelons of a black/death festival line-up is noticeably absent. A less calculated production style might well have been the answer to these ills, but as it is the second record from Ascension leaves them knocking on the door of the black metal’s top division, waiting for an invite to enter.

Originally written for

As the World Dies - 90%

Witchfvcker, January 15th, 2015
Written based on this version: 2014, CD, World Terror Committee (Digipak)

As foretold by the double-barreled blast of Deathless Light, orthodox black metal luminaries Ascension have returned from the void after four years of slumber. Released on Christmas Eve, the blasphemous incantations of The Dead Of The World could not have come at a better time. Choosing to keep their identities hidden, the band nevertheless proved themselves adept musicians on their debut Consolamentum. Not content to dwell on past glories, Ascension anno 2014 is a rather more mature beast, featuring surprisingly clean production and remarkably tight songwriting.

Opening at a crawl rather than a blast, “The Silence Of Abel” is an atmospheric and sinister piece that feels at place amongst the bile of latter day Funeral Mist. Somberly invoking unspeakable forces from darker dimensions, Ascension have an insatiable appetite for the dramatic. The richly dense production includes shamelessly wailing guitar melodies and a rumbling bass, conjuring visions of a plodding march out of hell. Musically and vocally similar to Watain, The Dead Of The World manages to retain an edge that the Swedes lost somewhere along their path to infamy. Bearing themselves as diabolical royalty, there’s a sweeping sense of grandeur and brimstone emerging through the black fog.

Now for the drawbacks. For all their expertly executed visions of death and damnation, the traditional approach of The Dead Of The World is marred by a lack of vision and originality. When the pace picks up, the atmosphere cracks and the emperors remain wearing little more than rags. That being said, Ascension make up for their conventional sound through their pure-bred excellence. A suffocating darkness accompanies every turn, and the markedly intelligible lyrics shine a brilliant gloomy light on the music. The single-track “Deathless Light” encapsulates these points perfectly. It’s another slowly unfolding number, driven by a deliberate buildup of sinister tension, which climaxes to the sound of violently soloing guitars. These sprawling epics are accompanied by more intense blackened death metal, most notably closing number “Mortui Mundi”, featuring the gravelly throat of Necros Christos’ venerable Mors Dalos Ra.

In the end, The Dead Of The World is a near-perfect synthesis of the black fanaticism of Funeral Mist’s Maranatha crossed with the majestic accessibility of Watain. Acolytes of orthodox black metal will find a lot to enjoy here, and the decent production values should appeal beyond the underground realms. Although the late-year release means that Ascension are absent from most end-of-year-lists, this has the potential to become a sleeper hit and perhaps a cult classic.

Written for The Metal Observer

Our Flesh As A Temple - 60%

torchia, December 29th, 2014
Written based on this version: 2014, CD, World Terror Committee (Digipak)

'Consolamentum' remains a magnum opus. The 2010 full-length continues to exude prowess and magic, as its track after track synchronicity offers one of the most assured and robust black metal releases of the last 10 years. In some ways, within its own little niche of the black metal strata, it is untouchable.

The 'Deathless Light' EP released on All Hallow's Eve of 2014 flaunted the fervently anticipated follow up, 'The Dead of the World', and it left most listeners insatiable, promising as it did a prodigal son, of sorts. The EP's title track stood out easily, with its perfect mixture of tempo, menace and subtly interwoven expert riffing amid the distorted yet controlled flow. All in all, it was genuinely haunting, and would have found itself comfortable on 'Consolamentum'. It instead finds itself a stand-out track on 'The Dead of the World'.

The slow to mid pace minutes that open 'The Dead of the World' set the tone and course that dominate the record. It initially appears somewhat more introspective, even more mature, than the blasted approach of Ascension's debut full-length, but consequently, it is only when proceedings advance the pace - sounding akin to Funeral Mist in sections - that more of that paramount and intoxicating magic begins to seep outward. Indeed, it is only by the album's third track, "Black Ember", that it begins to feel like an Ascension record.

Essentially, the album's slower approach does work well to place greater emphasis on mood and atmosphere, but there exists little of the gooseflesh-rendering proficiency of 'Consolamentum', an album of anthems and shatteringly marvelous black metal. Nonetheless, the song-writing is thoroughly competent, laced with underlying melodies that betray Ascension as professional musicians capable of so much more; a band capable of what their first full-length tendered. However, there is great tenacity to be found in the lyrical themes and in their ardent vocal delivery, which veers between similarities to Erik of Watain and the often imitated Arioch/Mortuus of Funeral Mist/Marduk.

Ever important, as a package, the release is tactfully bestowed, with aptly dark, obscure and masterful artwork and layout by David Glomba of Teitan Arts and Trident Arts, respectively. The record's cover is adorned with a striking illustration of an insect creature akin to the death's head hawk moth made popular by the Silence of the Lambs. Its decayed appearance, wings marked with sigils, works fluently to complement the album's theme and raises it above standard black metal imagery. It is due to this and the inspired, lengthy album closer, "Mortui Mundi", that the full-length is pulled back from the brink.

'The Dead of the World' is peppered with tracks that will go over well in festival settings. Dirge-laden, headbanging numbers may appease an intoxicated crowd but in many ways, they fall short of being able, or worthy, to nest next to the mystique-rich majesty of the majority of 'Consolamentum'. Bands dabbling in similar concoctions, such as Inferno and Tortorum, ape the likes of Ascension with apparent ease. They may lack that final layer of polish, but following a marginally prosaic release like 'The Dead of the World', Ascension may find their grasp on their particular throne slipping, even if it is ever so slightly.

Originally written for - 28 December 2014

Ascension - The Dead Of The World - 87%

powerblack, December 24th, 2014
Written based on this version: 2014, CD, World Terror Committee (Digipak)

Ascension, perhaps need no introduction to the fans of occult black metal. As a band, these Germans have created a mist of aura about themselves- primarily with their stunning music accompanied by excellent lyrics and a magical hymn procreated on western esoteric metaphysics. The band willingly chose to disguise their identity as a mean to their firm withstanding to the mainstream trends and also to differentiate their level of maturity over the tons of band labeling themselves as black metal. Their seven years journey through the clandestine passages of superior wisdom has seen its destination in two full lengths so far – 'Consolamentum' and 'The Dead of the World' which is scheduled to be released on 24th of December, 2014. All of their releases so far has been distributed by the German label, World Terror Committee.

Ascension have always put priority on composing music to reflect their ideas and messages perfectly, with dark and menacing guitar riffs, driven on melody and heavier bass guitars. To take the listeners into the deepest trench of hell, this time the band chose to slower their tempo- almost to a doom-ish scale as the first track 'The Silence of Abel' breaks in. This is the primary deviation the band has developed since the release of 'Consolamentum'. The guitars are slow, heavy and punishing as the running time forwards. The hint of progression in the sound becomes audible with clearer production (not cheesy at all if compared to Watain’s 'The Wild Hunt'). The effective use of sharp guitar melodies and so-often shredding solos in contrast with dark, spine chilling ambiances. If you are looking for traditional thin sounding atmosphere, then Ascension is to be ruled out of your school. The distinctive and increased bass mixing amplifies the dimension of heaviness so to speak. If it seems over hyped then 'Mortui Mundi' could be a perfect example. The drums, are not typical at all. No shitloads of blasts or generic double basses, but the drums are composed here with care to suit the steady, punishing background. The tortured, suffered screams are sure to lose your soul in the vast, lethal darkness of eternal sleep… yes that’s what the band vents about on this record. The elegy of souls and the eternal demise of the world- which has been sheltered and invoked throughout the dirges from this chapter.

The sound of Ascension on this record is remarkable, the direction the band chosen is a matter of debate (confronted mostly by the steadfast orthodox fans), but the modern black metal fans should consider this album as a masterpiece and recommend as a must-listen. If you are a fan of black metal digging both the 2nd wave and modern school, you should give it a listen: the dark, chaotic sound won’t disappoint you at all. My personal opinion says, The Dead of the World could be considered as one of the best releases of 2014, coming out on a Christmas Eve, to mark the insignificance of a so called holy day and worship the eternal demise glorified by the great obscurity!

Highlights: The Dark Tomb Shines, Mortui Mundi, The Silence of Abel, Unlocking Tiamat.

Originally written for Venustas Diabolicus.