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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 Rockfreaks.net