GravewormI used to have a very nice Graveworm t-shirt. It was purple colour with, if I remember rightly, a graveyard and a cross. The band has outlasted my t-shirt and has been pouring out gothically dark metal for 23 years, releasing eight albums prior to this one. I have two, “Engraved in Black” (2003) and “Fragments of Death” (2011). Both are surprisingly uplifting, considering the genre and style.

“Ascending Hate” has the usual ingredients of a Graveworm album but I was disappointed. I found it a bit flat. “To the Empire of Madness”, which is the fourth track of the album, has fire and raucousness but sounded tired. It’s hard to say there’s anything wrong with it, as darkness, misery and melody mix on “Blood Torture Death” and other tracks but it doesn’t resonate. I found myself picking out highlights rather than being in a state of constant awe and delight. One of those highlights featured in the opening track “The Death Heritage”. A prolonged calm passage is interrupted by a veritable storm. Lashings of fast and furious black metal follow. There’s a mix of fury and calm. It’s a land of confusion, aided by the familiar gut-bursting vocals and tangy instrumentals. Elsewhere there are long growls, whistling keys and passages which border on epic melancholy and hopelessness. There’s a constant world of blackness and fire, with the occasional haunting element. Gothic black metal riffs give rise to an atmosphere of foreboding. I did like “Liars to the Lions” with its Swedish style melo-death riff, ghostly keys and those growly vocals. Changes of pace do not detract from the blood letting as this template for a Graveworm track hammers away. I was less impressed by “Rise Again”, a Hypocrisy style dirge. Fires blaze all round, gothic touches emanate from the piano as it momentarily slows down and then, after a scream, disappears into hopelessly ferocious melancholy. The guitars ring out. “Son of Lies” fires forward mercilessly save a choral break, and “Nocturnal Hymns Part II (Death’s Anthem)” closes with its dark and gothic cries. It’s ok but there’s nothing new on the table here.

“Ascending Hate” has much to commend itself and has elements of fire in the instrumental and vocal mix, as all Graveworm albums do, but for me the power never broke out and I was looking for special moments to lift it above the mundane. I concluded that this isn’t my favourite Graveworm album.

(6/10 Andrew Doherty)