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Gurthang > Ascension > Reviews > Edmund Sackbauer
Gurthang - Ascension

Gurthang - Ascension - 77%

Edmund Sackbauer, September 7th, 2023
Written based on this version: 2019, CD, Immortal Frost Productions (Limited edition)

I came to know the Polish band Gurthang via their latest release “Hearts of the Hollow” on Immortal Frost Productions. As I quite enjoyed that one I decided to also check out its predecessor “Ascension”. Whoever listens to this album will realize quite quickly that this is not a work that shines through instrumental technique, but that tries to create a dark atmosphere with familiar and simple song structures. Compared to their recent full length the doom and also partially the black metal portion is dialed back here and instead replaced by a certain crustier approach. So while labelled as black/doom metal the music of Gurthang is hard to define, at least when trying to put a sub-genre stamp on it. The vocals have kind of a raspy punk/hardcore vibe going on, further enhancing the pool of influences used by Gurthang on this particular record.

The gentlemen of Gurthang happily decided not to waste precious time on riffs lasting a minute with a wrap, and the drummer was willing to show that more than one beat per kick of a second is not a special problem for him. On the contrary, the rhythm section, although characterized by a variable tempo, does not shy away from blasts and a sharp tempo on the bass drum. The guitar parts may have tempered the bludger's fervor a bit, but the melodic line, though unhurried, is sharp and irreverent enough. It's also obviously intelligible and thus enjoyable to listen to. Above the instrumentation are the vocals like mentioned above. Clear and strong, also not too barky or guttural, but as solid as a stone stature. The whole thing is quite diversified. And this also distances Gurthang's latest album from being compared to the funeral doom trend.

Gurthang have the ability to make subtle riff changes in the songs, which gently develop the vibe without destroying the monotony, which is undoubtedly an important stylistic device here. Still, it was unnecessary that there are two songs with a length of twelve minutes, as they could have been dealt with in seven to eight minutes with the variation within the tracks being not that material. It's also a pity that the doom influences are not emphasized enough as playing slower every now and then doesn't make a doom, because the album could have been given an additional level of independence if they had succeeded in fusing black metal and doom metal more strongly like they showed on “Hearts of the Hollow”. The recurring quiet parts and the drums that are often in the background loosen up the record well and strengthen the gloom of the black metal frenzy specifically - that is successful in places like e.g. on “Mirrors”.

The production is pretty clear – although is has to be said the drums seem a bit too high in the mix. A drummer is mentioned in the line-up, but the sound is slightly synthetic and therefore a bit off in the overall mix. Other than that the different instruments complement each other smoothly. In the end it was interesting to listen to “Ascension” and compare it to their newer album, as it is obvious that Gurthang were in kind of a transition phase. This led to an album which shows some potential but is a bit uneven. So in case you want to check them out I personally recommend “Hearts of the Hollow” and in case you are impressed enough to dive into the back catalogue also give “Ascension” a listen.