Sunday, 28 December 2014

We Offer You Our Flesh As a Temple

Release: 'The Dead of the World' (2014)

'Consolamentum' remains a magnum opus. The 2010 full-length continues to exude prowess and magic, as its track after track concurrence offers one of the most assured and robust black metal releases of the last 10 years. In some ways, within its own little niche of the black metal strata, it is untouchable.

The 'Deathless Light' EP released on All Hallow's Eve of 2014 flaunted the fervently anticipated follow up, 'The Dead of the World', and it left most listeners insatiable, promising as it did a prodigal son, of sorts. The EP's title track stood out easily, with its perfect mixture of tempo, menace and subtly interwoven expert riffing amid the distorted yet controlled flow. All in all, it was genuinely haunting, and would have found itself comfortable on 'Consolamentum'. It instead finds itself a stand out track on 'The Dead of the World'.

The slow- to mid-pace minutes that open 'The Dead of the World' set the timbre and ebb that dominate the record. It initially appears somewhat more introspective, even more mature, than the blasted approach of Ascension's debut full-length, but consequently, it is only when proceedings advance the pace - sounding akin to Funeral Mist in sections - that more of that paramount and intoxicating magic begins to seep outward. Indeed, it is only by the album's third oblation, "Black Ember", that it begins to feel like an Ascension record.

Essentially, the album's slower approach does work well to place greater emphasis on mood and atmosphere, but there exists little of the gooseflesh-rendering proficiency of 'Consolamentum', an album of anthems and shatteringly marvelous black metal. Nonetheless, the song-writing is thoroughly competent, laced with underlying melodies that betray Ascension as professional musicians capable of so much more; a band capable of what their first full-length tendered. However, there is great tenacity to be found in the lyrical themes and in the ardent vocal delivery of such, which veers between similarities to Erik of Watain and the often imitated Arioch/Mortuus of Funeral Mist/Marduk.

Ever important, as a package, the release is deftly bestowed, with aptly dark, obscure and masterful artwork and layout by David Glomba of Teitan Arts and Trident Arts, respectively. The record's cover is adorned with a striking illustration of an insect creature akin to the death's head hawk moth made popular by the Silence of the Lambs. Its decayed appearance, wings marked with sigils, works uncomplicatedly to complement the album's theme and raises it above standard black metal imagery. It is due to this and the inspired, lengthy album closer, "Mortui Mundi", that the full-length is pulled back from the brink.

'The Dead of the World' is peppered with tracks that will go over well in festival settings. Dirge-laden, headbanging numbers may appease an intoxicated crowd but, in many ways, they fall short of being able - or worthy - to nest next to the mystique-rich majesty of the majority of 'Consolamentum'. Bands dabbling in similar concoctions, such as Inferno and Tortorum, ape the likes of Ascension with apparent ease. They may lack that final layer of polish, but following a marginally prosaic release like 'The Dead of the World', Ascension may find their grasp on their particular throne slipping, even if it is ever so slightly.

Rating: 60%

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