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Encoffination - "Ritual Ascension Beyond Flesh" (CD)

Encoffination - "Ritual Ascension Beyond Flesh" CD cover image

"Ritual Ascension Beyond Flesh" track listing:

1. Procession (2:11)
2. Nefarious Yet Elegant Are the Bowels of Hell (4:59)
3. Miasma of Rotten Serenity (3:35)
4. Eucharist of Bone and Flame (3:44)
5. Interlude (2:08)
6. Beyond the Grace of Flesh Go I (6:06)
7. Entombment of the Breathing Flesh (5:11)
8. Coffinpsalms (8:21)

Reviewed by on September 21, 2010

"If Satan were to put together a play-list to torture his victims with, Encoffination’s 'Ritual Ascension Beyond Flesh' would be at the very top."

If Satan were to put together a play-list to torture his victims with, Encoffination’s “Ritual Ascension Beyond Flesh” would be at the very top. This sinister debut is as grim as modern doom metal can get, with a rough production and inaudible low grunts to accentuate the proceedings. Death is the main theme here, though not the fluffy clouds and pearly white gates that many of us are hoping to see when we are buried six feet under. Maggots digging into putrid flesh and grotesque visions are how the afterlife is visualized, a haunting portrayal given life by the persistent buzzing guitars and hollow drums. It’s a hard album to listen to on a daily basis, but there is a gripping quality to Encoffination’s music that can’t be denied.

Encoffination has been labeled as a doom/death hybrid, but the band sticks to a painful down-tempo that creeps along with no desire to pick up the pace. The bowels of Hell have not before been as sharply represented as they are on “Ritual Ascension Beyond Flesh.” The atmosphere is rich in morbid darkness that gives no leeway. The titles of the songs are accurate descriptions of what kind of torment awaits the listener. “Nefarious Yet Elegant Are the Bowels of Hell” is the first proper song after a hypnotic instrumental opener and it is a nefarious introduction to Encoffination.

The band doesn’t experiment much with their core sound, though samples are used sparingly to emphasize just how evil this album is. The first and second half may be similar in sound, but things pick up after the brief interlude in the middle. The songs get longer, taking their time to slither forward like a tempting serpent. “Beyond the Grace of Flesh Go I” is the type of song that will give kids nightmares for years, as well as some close-minded adults. The duo makes the most out of the little subtleties, like a discernible riff among the wall of noise or a fast double bass section, to keep the album from dissolving into a one-note performance.

The highlight of the album is the epic closing track “Coffinpsalms.” The pace is crippling, until something strange happens two minutes in. An acoustic guitar is introduced, a hint of light that rudely interrupts the darkness. For a fleeting moment, a trickle of melody makes an appearance. It’s a stunning twist that isn’t overused, as the song eventually returns to its grimy roots for a closing extended jam. “Coffinpsalms” is the satisfying result to all the rage and horror that has been building up for the previous half-hour.

It goes without saying that “Ritual Ascension Beyond Flesh” is not an album to listen to when in a good mood. This is gray, depressing music that has little hope and joy to express. That may make the album hard to recommend, but Encoffination is so persuasive and commanding in their performance that it makes their debut a must-listen. A majority of metal released this year hasn’t sounded this bleak, and that is about the best compliment one can give a doom metal album. This isn’t for everyone, but those that get pleasure out of pain and suffering will find “Ritual Ascension Beyond Flesh” an appropriate sedative.

Highs: Bleak doom metal with aggressive death metal tendencies, sounds like it was recorded in the bowels of Hell, surprising acoustic work on closer "Coffinpsalms."

Lows: Not an album to listen to when in a good mood, the hollow production may turn some off.

Bottom line: A raw debut that paints a grim picture of death and the afterlife.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 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)