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Ascension - "The Dead Of The World" (CD)

Ascension - "The Dead Of The World" CD cover image

"The Dead Of The World" track listing:

1. The Silence of Abel (7:39)
2. Death's Golden Temple (9:31)
3. Black Ember (5:09)
4. Unlocking Tiamat (5:42)
5. Deathless Light (8:38)
6. The Dark Tomb Shines (8:29)
7. Mortui Mundi (10:51)

Reviewed by on January 14, 2015

"What stands about the band is that the music is old school, but absolutely not cookie cutter. There's a spin on it so it doesn't sound like the same old frozen, tremolo-picked thing you've heard a couple of thousand times before."

While the band's name may speak of power or prog, the cover for “The Dead Of The World” is a (dead) giveaway: this metal is blackest of the black. A mixture of classic and modern black metal, the German outfit's sophomore album may not be as experimental as what Watain has been putting out lately, but it is definitely more of an updated sound than is being produced by those stalwarts permanently stuck in the second wave.

The album has a bit of that apocalyptic, anti-human life feel from Dodecahedron or Deathspell Omega, but for the first two tracks (as well as swathes of fourth track “Unlocking Tiamat”) move at a bit of a slower pace than you'd typically expect for black metal (perhaps a new sub-genre called doomened black metal is in order?). By “Black Ember” the pace picks up significantly, however, and the sound goes more traditional.

What stands out about the band is that the music is old school, but absolutely not cookie cutter. There's a spin on it so it doesn't sound like the same old frozen, tremolo-picked thing you've heard a couple of thousand times before. “The Dead Of The World” balances atmosphere and heaviness, but without letting go of the brutality.

Ascension does more with guitars than just pummel brutally onward, so there's depth and texture to the music even as its moving full speed ahead in black metal mode, and in several instances a listener will clearly hear a “IX Equilibrium” era Emperor influence. For more variety, the cataclysmic opening to “Death's Golden Temple” with two simultaneous guitar tones gives a very different vibe, and the 10+ minute ending track “Mortui Mundi” flirts with a death/thrash sound before throwing in the famous marching, warlike black metal drum beats.

If there's a low point on “The Dead Of The World,” its probably the long song lengths, which can work against the tracks and require a bit more patience than the average black metal record, but in general there's enough variation that its not a big issue. With a solid mix of tempos and styles, “The Dead Of The World” is offering the rest of the black metal world some stiff competition, starting the year off strong.

Highs: Classic black metal gets an updated sound without fully letting go of the roots of the genre.

Lows: The extended track lengths give the songs time to meander.

Bottom line: Ascension starts the year off strong for black metal with a release that blends classic and modern styles.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)