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Thulcandra - "Ascension Lost" (CD)

Thulcandra - "Ascension Lost" CD cover image

"Ascension Lost" track listing:

1. The First Rebellion
2. Throne of Will
3. Deliverance In Sin and Death
4. Demigod Imprisoned
5. Interlude
6. Exalted Resistance (streaming here)
7. The Second Fall
8. Sorrow of the One
9. Ascension Lost
10. Outro

Reviewed by on March 9, 2015

"Rarely does the band create a listening experience where the punishment is pummeling one to sleep. Songs like 'Demigod Imprisoned' and 'Exalted Resistance' demand that you are awake for your total destruction."

It’s hard to listen to Thulcandra and not think about Dissection. The German black metal greats pretty much do it on purpose. Even in my review of “Under A Frozen Sun,” I was caught up in all that “Dissection clone” talk. While it is a virtual certainty that Thulcandra takes the comparison as a badge of honor, as time moves on it really gets a bit old. With each successive album, Thulcandra builds a larger identity, one that is far more distinct and in many ways actually superior to the Swedish legends. You read that last part right, kvlt nation. “Ascension Lost” is a contradiction in terms…since ascension is precisely where the band is headed.

Relying solely on creating mesmerizing, melodic, and infinitely well played black metal, Thulcandra has no need to don clown make up and throw Molotov cocktails through stained glass windows. Drawing forth arctic winds from the north, Erebor’s blast beats seem encased in ice as the melody emanating from Sebastian Ludwig and Steffan Kummerer’s guitars wrap around like evasive ivy. Occasionally, tracks are fronted by intrusive melodic/acoustic interludes (“Demigod Imprisoned,” “The First Rebellion”) which fade into deep bitter riffs and glacial blast beats. The album captures the vitality of 90’s black metal down to its grim astringent foundation. Having become bastardized and orphaned by orchestration over time, this particular variant has become a vacant dynasty, and Thulcandra has just sashayed in and sat atop the throne. The band comes equipped with a gene that has foiled the existence of the greats who have come before: stability.

The album’s full tracks clock in at an average of just over five minutes, and though pretty typical of the style, some do tend to run just a bit long, especially when you get stuck a bit in a sudden curtain of chill, like the latter half of “Deliverance In Sin and Death” (though such an amazing tune regardless). It’s just a momentary drain…for the most part the band thrill with riffs that leave you aghast – like the no wait, no warning wall of riff on “Throne of Will” and the serrated ice fog perpetrated by “The Second Fall,” both tracks pegged as the early favorites on the album. “Sorrow of the One” picks up the pace and the heat with blistering blast beats.

Black metal is a fickle bitch, because for many acts the sonic walls of pungent haze only manage to suck the life and will out of the listener. With Thulcandra, when the wall approaches, it comes with flailing unsheathed swords, gleefully melodic solos, and Celtic Frost grunts. Rarely does the band create a listening experience where the punishment is pummeling one to sleep. Songs like “Demigod Imprisoned” and “Exalted Resistance” demand that you are awake for your total destruction. The band is simply superior at the style, even toppling the mighty Dissection, who seems to have been placed on that pedestal post-mortem.

“Ascension Lost” sees Thulcandra finding more of its own identity despite the continued rash of “Dissection clone” complaints. The band is a living tribute to a once flourishing style of melodic black metal, steeped in the traditional but daring to go beyond the blast beat to add rich flavor and color to the otherwise grim and bleak standard. Now standing virtually alone at the top of a mountain of snow and ice…it’s time to talk about which band really reigns supreme in the subgenre. Convincing the masses that the album should be entitled “Ascension Gained” would be a good start.

Highs: 90's style melodic black metal gets no better than this. Thulcandra reigns alone.

Lows: It borders on the line where there isn't enough extreme or melody to fully please either fan base.

Bottom line: Thulcandra reigns supreme...."Ascension Gained."

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls

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)