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Ascend - "Ample Fire Within" (CD)

Ascend - "Ample Fire Within" CD cover image

"Ample Fire Within" track listing:

1. The Obelisk of Kolob (4:25)
2. Ample Fire Within (7:08)
3. Divine (9:06)
4. V.O.G. (10:27)
5. Her Horse Is Thunder (9:34)
6. Dark Matter (12:33)

Reviewed by on August 6, 2010

"...both bearded wizards of the band are also sporting influences from jazz to Tom Waits, and they are well noted in this multifaceted output."

The Southern Lord legions just keep growing, it seems, with projects linked to doom/drone legends like Greg Anderson swelling in a tree of interlinked minds aspiring to the heaviest music on the planet. This review is for the project Ascend, where Greg has hooked in fellow Southern Lord rosterman Gentry Densley of Eagle Twin/Iceburn.

The promo slip mentions that “Ample Fire Within” sports “the utmost focus on heaviness and power.” However, both bearded wizards of the band are also sporting influences from jazz to Tom Waits, and they are well noted in this multifaceted output. It is perhaps most easy to classify Southern Lord bands in their relation to Sunn O))). As you know, Sunn O))) has a focus on feedback-based drone and the ties that in with riffs that, while heavy, are still little more than minimalistic power rumblings. “Ample Fire Within” is like taking the more stable heavy elements of Sunn O))), elements of free-form jazz, southern metal, ad nauseam and a sprinkling of classic drone. That said, the whole album has a sort of “pervasive drone” feel insofar as that if you don't like the genre, this album won't convert you one bit.

The standout elements are Gentry's gruff old man ramblings, which sit well with tracks like “Divine,” a haunting Earth-ish type clean guitar track. The last song, “Dark Matter,” is also particularly epic, featuring a crushing organ hovering over meaty guitars. However this last sentence also gives a hint to an issue that I've felt before on releases like Asva's “What You Don't Know Is Frontier”: why are these albums more like a a multitude of ideas rather than cohesive projects? There's drone, doom, ambient, but to fit it into a medium size album creates something that is too unfocused to ever be a really great album. Give me 5 tracks like “Divine,” and there's a band that would truly grip my attention.

It is of note that the promo disk did not have the listed track "Her Horse Is Thunder" so I can't award any points for tracks I didn't hear.

Perhaps it best goes to show that while metal can meld well to another genre like jazz or classical, it is far to caustic to be anything but an annoyance when hurled into a melting pot. If you're a Southern Lord junkie then this album won't disappoint, as there are definitely tracks on “Ample Fire Within” that will send you to another planet – it's just unfortunate the planet didn't have more gravity.

Highs: The tracks are all separately strong and Gentry's vocals are perfectly suited to the album.

Lows: A little disjointed by the miriad of different music on display.

Bottom line: A good doom/drone release from two luminaries of heavy music.

Rated 3 out of 5 skulls
3 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)