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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