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Refreshing and faintly nostalgic - 80%

bkuettel, January 8th, 2016

Beginning as a celebration of Swedish black metal, each of Thulcandra's releases have shown a willingness to experiment and step out from the shadow of their inspirations and influences. After a challenging beginning to their existence, Thulcandra quickly made a significant mark in modern black metal while featuring synths and acoustic guitars to vary up their sound. Ascension Lost continues their evolution largely in the same vein, with a few notable improvements. Album opener "The First Rebellion" begins with their usual acoustic and arpeggiated electric guitar duo before plunging into a thrashy groove. It ratchets up the speed, eventually giving way to blistering guitar riffs and tremolo picking. Thulcandra have proven that they can write black metal epics with brutal effectiveness, and "The First Rebellion" is no exception. "Demigod Imprisoned" begins similarly, but quickly distinguishes itself with one of the most melancholic choruses of the album. A slowed down atmospheric bridge provides a much needed respite from the pedal-to-the-metal insanity, but that element of their sound rarely repeats for the remainder of the album's runtime. A one minute acoustic guitar interlude provides a break in the speed demons around the middle, the strongest among them being "Exalted Resistance" and "Sorrow of the One".

One noticeable improvement Ascension Lost features over previous outings are the extended guitar solos. Most tracks, especially the epics, make use of more dynamic and extended solos to beef up potentially tired ideas. "The Second Fall" in particular has one of the band's most depressive and emotive solos over complex drumming. Thulcandra have never ceased to make a conscious effort to make each track varied and special, in one way or another. A major strength of Ascension Lost is its ability to keep Thulcandra's sound fresh, without necessarily changing their formula in any significant way. Steffen Kummerer's tormented shrieks have changed the least out of the trio's contributions, but it never really needed to. His screams exhibit just as much torment and frenetic torment as ever, if not more so.

Every aspect of Thulcandra's musical style has improved in one way or another. The bass guitar is unfortunately still largely inaudible, mainly following what the rhythm guitar is playing. However, leads and solos are the main centerpiece of Ascension Lost, and for the band as a whole. The Dissection and Unanimated influences are still present, their original intention as a band fully intact. However, their willingness to continue experimenting and progressing keeps their musical style from growing stale. Extended instrumental sections, more technical drumming, and more complex guitar solos make this the band's strongest release to date. Ascension Lost is this year's refreshing and faintly nostalgic melodic black metal album that pays homage to the classics, while progressing the group's sound just enough to where it doesn't feel tired or familiar.

Step By Step - 77%

GuntherTheUndying, April 2nd, 2015

Note to bands: Dissection worship is a great way to get in my pants if I’m being difficult. Surpassed only by Mercyful Fate emulation, a straightforward representation of the Swedish melodic black metal juggernaut is almost guaranteed to leave me satisfied. Thulcandra understands the appealing structure, and has made running with its icy, forlorn atmosphere its main prerogative. As much as I find “Ascension Lost” alluring on the surface, the Dissectionisms and the reckonings paying homage to Unanimated, another melodic black metal legend, leave me feeling Thulcandra could have explored the depth of this style to a greater degree. Regardless, I still can’t push “Ascension Lost” out in front of a bus in a querulous fit; this is decent work, by and large.

Melodic black metal cooked under Dissection’s secret blend of spices is an infallible recipe. Thulcandra’s style takes the frozen tremolo picking and melodically-charged black metal riffs and drives them to a land forlorn. “The First Rebellion,” “Deliverance in Sin and Death,” “Demigod Imprisoned,” and the title track take the standard of the sound to new horizons with outstanding sequences and lead guitar aesthetics that would have Jon Nödtveidt smiling from ear to ear. They are magnificent, ice-covered and desolate black metal hymns showing forceful command over this province. “Ascension Lost” is mostly frenetic, paced antagonistically. Blast beats and hectic drum patterns common in this dominion match guitar work that is not too far beyond the rudimentary concept of melodic black metal. Thulcandra is a child of Dissection; the veneration is undeniable.

I feel the band isn’t pushing itself much to become more than just a reproduction of this style, but “Ascension Lost” hits the spot thanks to superb performances and Thulcandra’s ability to capture the purity of this neglected, icy style perfectly. The obvious knowledge and passion within “Ascension Lost” is magnificent insofar as the magic is not frittered away after some superb riffing sections and black metal arrangements on “The First Rebellion.” The shrieking vocals are fine, though small potatoes compared to the top-notch atmosphere and Thulcandra’s splendid gallery of melodic black metal riffs. Sound quality isn’t a big deal, either; modern and powerful for the sound, but lacking the raw punch of the masterpieces this subgenre offered in winters past.

A few tracks knock on the door of vapidity, and couldn’t have missed the frozen gravity of Dissection’s intricacy more if Thulcandra stuck its head in an oven for ten minutes. “The Second Fall” and “Throne of Will” utilize straightforward mid-paced riffs and tempos holding little to make them stand out, and even less to match the album’s usually high quality. “Sorrow of the One” loses me a bit, too. Neither a proper reflection of “Ascension Lost” nor the others surrounding the few duds; just mediocre stacked up to the other songs. “Ascension Lost” usually feeds the polar beast craving the taste of a place where dead angels lie. Dissection worship of a high order that does its job and seldom settles for the sewers.

This review was written for: www.Thrashpit.com

Thulcandra-Ascension Lost - 65%

GeorgeMFZB852, February 25th, 2015

To say that there are no clear-cut flaws to black metal act Thulcandra’s third full-length, Ascension Lost, may seem like the opening to a 10/10 review. However, while the album is consistent and solid, it also contains no real oomph and hardly any degree of originality. As obvious admirers of metal veterans Dissection, the four-piece have even gone as far to make the cover art look remarkably similar to those used on Dissection’s first two albums.

It is clear right from opener ‘The First Rebellion’ that the band are more than competent musicians. Sebastian Ludwig’s solos are truly brilliant (see ‘Throne Of Will’) and his twin brother Tobias on bass stands out more than most black metal bassists you’ll find. Meanwhile, new drummer Erebor (presumably a stage named based on the Lord Of The Rings character) is creative and technically impressive, utilising more than just the standard double-bass pedal assault that a lot of metal has become accustomed to. Together with Steffen Kummerer’s profound rhythm guitar and vocals, the band’s songs really have a level of depth that is to be admired. The guitarists especially shine, as they layer each other’s work superbly, usually playing at a fast pace like on ‘Exalted Resistance’ and ‘Demigod Imprisoned’. It’s worth noting, however, that the mid-paced sections like those on ‘The Second Fall’ are just as commanding.

Though clearly accomplished musicians, with the ability to write heavy but engaging hooks, the group rely a little too much on the infectious riffs and strong rhythms. This may seem an odd element to pick out as a flaw, but the result of this is a complete lack of an imposing atmosphere. While tracks like ‘The Second Fall’ lead the way with some insane metal riffs, the occasional goosebumps that the best metal albums are able to provide are just nowhere to be found.

While Ascension Lost is filled to the brim with sublime guitar-work and suitably energetic drumming, it also screams of Dissection a little too much. Ever since their 2010 debut, Thulcandra have experienced critics everywhere brandishing them as Dissection clones. Here, they had a chance to break free from this copycat label and have simply refused to act on it. The quality of the musicianship may be too good to decline, but overall, Ascension Lost is 45 minutes of well-trodden ground.

Originally posted on http://noisecannon.com/2015/02/03/thulcandra-ascension-lost/

Finding Their Own Identity - 95%

mjollnir, February 19th, 2015

Germany's Thulcandra have become one of my favorite bands. They began as sort of a Dissection worship band, but with enough of their own identity to stand out among their peers. They recorded an unreleased demo in 2005 but with the untimely suicide of original member Jurgen Zintz, the demo was never released and the band went on hold until 2008 when founding member Steffen Kummerer listened to the demo and decided to begin again. Their brand of blackened melodic death metal has a really nice atmosphere with excellent musicianship and plenty of hooks. They've actually put Germany on the map of a sub-genre of metal that consisted mostly of Swedish bands.

Fast forward to 2015 and we see the release of their third full length album, Ascension Lost. And it is with this album that, I believe, the band has realized their full potential to become a true contender in the metal world. Aggression mixed with melody, atmosphere, and the ability to write great songs, this album is slowly becoming one of my favorites of this little sub-genre and will, no doubt, be considered a classic one day. With the melodic guitars setting the atmosphere of the album opener, "The First Rebellion" you get the idea of what this album is going to sound like. The riffing is in full swing with thrashy power chord riffing mixed with some melodic tremolos, this song is the band showing one of the elements that has always made them great, their epic side. The vocals sound a bit like Ihsahn's early style, though they remain consistent and never become overbearing or annoying. There are a lot of elements to the song adding to the overall atmosphere. In contrast, the follow up song, "Throne of Will," is a straight up mid-paced blackened melo-death number that doesn't bring anything new to the table but is just an enjoyable song. The solo is killer and the contrast between the chords and tremolo riffing makes this a great song even if it doesn't display the epic side of the band.

Some songs do stand out as the opener did. After a short interlude, "Exalted Resistance" just slays with monstrous tremolos and an atmosphere of sheer cold and darkness. Dare I use the cliche grim and frostbitten? Yeah, it's like that. In just a little over four minutes, this track manages to show the band's strengths without having to pull the epic card or create many layers. At the same time, this song, when combined with the rest of the album, instantly makes this an album that is one that needs to be consumed whole. I'm the type who always listens to albums as a whole and I enjoy albums that are coherent and flow from one song to another, even if the songs contrast in style. "The Second Fall" comes right in after "Exalted Resistance" and is different in style without interrupting the flow of the album. To me, that's impressive. It's more mid-paced and straight ahead with a nice atmospheric part in the middle with a great melodic solo. The title track is another song with many layers and dimensions but with the same atmosphere as the rest of the album. This is another song that borders on epic with killer tremolos providing melody and atmosphere while not sacrificing the aggression. This is the last proper song on the album as the closer is a short instrumental so this is truly a great way to close out a truly amazing and coherent album. But the end is only the beginning.....

....because the real treat here is that the album contains, as bonus tracks, the original unreleased demo from ten years prior. Not only are these great songs but it also shows how much this band has truly grown to become the band they are now. "Perishness Around Us" could actually be a blackened death/thrash song. It actually has a bit more in common with thrash with the crunchy riffing and contrast between speedy and mid-paced tempo. The vocals are bit lower and a little more guttural than they are now and actually fit the music perfectly. Even then they were still able to add melody and atmosphere into their music keeping it from being one dimensional. There's actually not as much Dissection worship here making one wonder why they didn't stay with this sound. I actually like what they became but enjoy hearing how they truly started. "Frozen Kingdom" and "Immortality" lean more to a melodic death metal with a little black metal influence. The Dissection influence does rear it's head in places with these two songs but they are mainly melo-death but with more atmosphere than what one is used to hearing in the genre.

At the end of the day, this is one thoroughly enjoyable album that truly shows how far this band has come. It shows their original sound as well as their refined, more atmospheric sound of the new album. One thing is for sure, this is a band that keeps on surprising me and exceeding expectations each time they release an album. If they keep going in this direction, they will be a force to be reckoned with.


The Elitist Metalhead

Thulcandra - Ascension Lost - 75%

ThrashManiacAYD, January 30th, 2015

Now extending their pilgrimage into the heart of frosty melodic black metal, Thulcandra return after a lengthier absence than which preceded their second album to provide the soundtrack to another dark, cold winter. By now having proven themselves to be more than a mere pet project of Steffen Kummerer (of Obscura fame) via the release of three admirable full lengths, I yet still find it difficult to fully accept the act as anything more than a tribute to the genre, let alone a tribute to Dissection. Thankfully the Dissection plagiarism has decreased with each consecutive effort and the band now more than ever stand on their own two feet musically, but the persistence with the overtly stereotypical blue Necrolord cover art on every record undermines any effort to form a unique identity, such is the instant recognition of that style for any metalhead worth their salt to classic records of past times.

A bolder approach on that front might serve to push Thulcandra into higher profile leagues as the ten compositions on "Ascension Lost" certainly justify a loftier status for the Bavarians. The band remain hugely technically astute and capable performers and songwriters, of that there is no doubt. At every turn there is something to admire in the depth of the songs, whether that be the prolific hammering of new drummer Erebor or the interwoven styles of Kummerer's guitar, fellow guitarist Sebastian Ludwig and even twin brother bassist Tobias Ludwig who provides more than just a mere bottom end. Frequently played at an intense pace in the likes of "Exalted Resistance”, the title track and epic opener "The First Rebellion" the subtle interplay between the two guitarists is magnificent, with one often heard playing cold dark leads over an assortment of highly engaging rhythms before joining together for numerous powerful blasts to lay a fresh layer of snow over their jagged windswept peaks. Just as notable however are the slower paced tracks - the groovy "Throne of Will", "The Second Fall" - and the individual moments of restraint placed throughout "Sorrow of the One" and the classically tinged interlude and outro, all of which display a versatility often beyond the merits of many bands who stick more regimentally to higher speeds, in turn doing themselves out of some of variation littered across a Thulcandra release.

Despite all this I’m having a hard time justifying to myself awarding "Ascension Lost" an 8+ it's musical attributes so patently deserve. While their debut "Fallen Angel’s Dominion" wonderfully aped Dissection, follow-up "Under A Frozen Sun" picked up the ball considerably and provides highlight tracks exceeding the best moments here. Consider also how the overall aesthetic of Thulcandra has not really advanced into album three as the same ploughs are still being furrowed and I am left with the sense that while "Ascension Lost" is a very well constructed and enjoyable album on it’s own merits the lack of stylistic progress adds a pall of darkness to the bleak wintry tomes heard emanating from every track.

Originally written for Rockfreaks.net