Possibly one of the UK’s premier extreme metal acts Ancient Ascendant has been steadily unleashing quality releases for nearly a decade. The bands last album, “Echoes And Cinder” had a slight experimental feathering with beautifully poised acoustic passages blending with outright ferocity. It is now three years since that release and that experimentalism has been given full focus on this third album that sees the band branching ever further into more challenging realms with devastatingly effective results.
Opening with the sublime intro piece of “Reawakening” the piano is laden with atmosphere and a sadness that leads fluidly into “Our Way” which has a mournful riff and sequential build up that unfolds into a manic blast and deathly roar. This band is one of the few acts that blends black metal and death metal seamlessly, entwining each genre via the harsh vocals and melodic black overtones that are nestled within a deathly rhythm style. Critically I felt that the harsher vocal style is overdone on the album and contrast very sharply with the generally melodic base of the tunes, though the deep growl works perfectly in an Amorphis like style.
This release is packed with contrasts that interlock into a unified sonic landscape as “Scaling The Gods” continues the album with a very tuneful riff and beat that hooks into a groove saturated delivery. That groove element is fixed throughout even when you get the blasting fury of “Carnal”; the song pummels remorselessly giving way periodically to catchy based phases that had me thinking about Satyricon. Beginning very calmly with a placid drum beat “Foreign Skies” showcases the bands considerable musicianship with a serene melody and deft guitar hook. Expectantly, that calm poise is batted to one side for the deep vocals and slow permeating riff, that has a doom like flavour. The way this band fuses their ideas into songs is excellent to the point that you hardly notice the ever-morphing changes being deployed. “Grasping The Torch” is completely rock based with its super catchy riff linked to a death ‘n’ roll approach utilising the harsh vocals very well as the blazing lead break is unveiled.
That innate catchiness continues on “The Great Curve” before, again, side swiping it aside for a flurry of blasting mayhem that has an obsidian aura and had me referencing acts like Satyricon, as mentioned previously, but also Slegest, Slægt and a host of acts that use a black template within a melodic riffing style. The songs cohesion is knitted together by the guitar work which bristles with energy especially on the leads which are excellent on this album throughout. Closing the album is “To The Cold” complete with howling wind sound effects and a gradual guitar fade in that is extremely pleasant and laid back. The songs main riff has a sort of sleazy approach, in a perverted sense, as the beat is kept mid-tempo and again Amorphis is a reference point as yet another fine lead is wielded.
I’ll admit that this album took a few listens to get into but once you do the resulting experience is superb, as the album sees the band ever expanding into new dominions and shows an act gaining impetus as they strive for recognition which this release should garner for them.
(8.5/10 Martin Harris)