Candlelight/Spinefarm Records, 21.04.17
British Ancient Ascendant is a band I haven't been fully able to wrap my head around. The quartet started out and released its first demo under the name Heretic in 2003. The band changed its name in 2005 and released a new demo and a few EPs before the debut was released in 2011. Meanwhile, one of the band's two guitarists was replaced. The rest of the crew has however remained remarkably stable.
The band plays a form of groovy melodic death metal that seems to have no idea about the concept of time...
...Not because the guys are arrhythmical, but because they sound both modern and archaic in the same breath.
With Raise The Torch, Ancient Ascendant mixes a schizophrenic mixture of thrash, death, black'n'roll, sleazy stoner blues-rock, hints of prog/tech and fuck knows what. The correct technical term for split personality is actually “dissociative identity disorder” (formerly “multiple personality disorder”), but metallic terminology holds on firmly to the incorporated term “schizophrenia”, which is actually a mental disorder characterized by amongst other psychosis and delusions. Given the band's distorted time perception, they may even be suffering from Dyschronometria or some other syndrome.
What a man won't reel of just to postpone an attempt of describing something he doesn't have the necessary prerequisites to explain. In view of the elements of extreme metal that Ancient Ascendant incorporate, the result is far from scary. The first song starts with tones that may sound a bit melancholic, but that soon passes. Mid-paced music is the main rule and the expression is gentle like a bastard child between At The Gates and Bon Jovi or Gojira and In Flames. There's just as many links to “modern metal” (Mastodont, Avenged Sevenfold, Lamb of God and similar garbage) as there is to Teutonic thrash, muddy death metal or melo-black.
Technically capable instrumentation, especially in the guitar section, strengthens the impression. Adequate sound and compositional ability to create a balanced genre potpourri may be called a plus. That the mixture appeal like taco with macaroni, caviare and rhubarb jam is a different story. Several types of vocal exist, and several of them leave me dismayed. The black vocal sounds like gremlins imitating Donald Duck. Not even the characters in the Muppet Show are equipped with such parodic voices.
My relationship to Raise The Torch is ambivalent to say the least. If you mix good vintage Whiskey 50/50 with a fresh urine sample, you might as well pour the mixture in the loo. The music ain't quite as unbearable, and I'm giving it a somewhat generous grading in a half-hearted attempt to be objective. I'll pass, but you have your own taste buds and your own brain cells to decide with. A review is simply an indicative thumbnail description that should be taken with a good pinch of salt. Never let anyone decide what you should think and feel. Raise The Torch is not much to raise the fist in the air for, though, but that's my opinion.
I have to send you all the way to YouTube to see and hear Scaling The Gods, because Universal Music Group, owner of Candlelight/Spinefarm has this dumb-ass policy that prevents anyone from embedding their videos and thereby promoting their artists.
Relapse Records, 17.03.17
A topic I've likely touched upon a few times, but probably haven't highlighted, is the interaction between the three aspects originality, quality and development. A kind of elephant in the room. I am again content with touching on the topic without any striking in-depth reflection.
The first is a “congenital” property that in a sense fades out over time, but whose respect does not disappear. A band that was once original will gradually cease to be perceived as this. Not due to change, but due to lack of development. They're still reeling off the same music, but it's no longer innovative.
It can be difficult to rate something that appears to be qualitative but “archaic”. At the same time, we fans are difficult to satisfy. We complain about stagnation, but as soon as a band develops, the discontented voice of the critics increases in strength. We all saw what happened when Morbid Angel tried to do something new. Though, in that case it might have had something to do with the quality. Obituary belongs to the part of the population who acknowledges Darwin's theory of evolution, but who themselves opt out of evolution in favour of persistence.
That the album is self-titled doesn't mark any anniversary, even though this is album number ten. The guys just felt that the material simply sounded completely Obituary, something in witch the veterans are of course correct. Obituary has a sound that despite inspiring countless of descendants still sounds unmistakable Obituary, and the quality of the songs remains solid. Especially the start of Straight to Hell sounds suspiciously familiar.
Even in the case that this self-titled work had been completely on par with Cause of Death, the latter would still be ranked higher, solely because of the innovative originality. It would be more logical to compare to the debut, Slowly We Rot (1989), but Cause of Death (1990) is the earliest record I have a familiarity with, and to all appearances, it's a crowd-pleaser by a wide margin.
Obituary, the album that is, does not have as strong hooks as Cause of Death. Unless that's simply due to the old classic having made a deeper impact in addition to about 20-25 years (in my case) to hammer the coffin-nail deeper into the cranium. Compared to each other, Obituary also fade a little bit in quality, not just originality, but taken out of context and rated separately, Obituary is still a damn nice slice of old-school death metal.
PS: I awarded Inked In Blood (2014) 4 points in a Norwegian review two and a half years ago.
Stream the album just under the Ten Thousand Ways To Die video, and check out the lyric-video for Turned to Stone.
Ashen Dominion, 17.04.17 Ulvegr is a duo from Ukraine, consisting of two experienced men. The band has been around since 2009, and have previously released three discs. Odalv and Helg have both played in Runes of Dianceht, and both are currently residing in GreyAblaze, KZOHH and Ygg. Drummer Odalv has previously played in Nokturnal Mortum, and vocalist-guitarist-bassist Helg belongs to the core of Khors*. Titahion: Kaos Manifest is my first encounter with Ulvegr, and we take a quick walk-through.
The duo's new chaos manifesto is an album that conveys moods of esoteric gnosticism with two distinct expressions, as separate, but also as compounded as the Roman deity Janus. Parts of the album has an ambient touch of acoustic instruments, low-frequency vocals from the abyss of the throat, primitive ritual shaman drumming and a hypnotic pre-Coptic touch of magic hieroglyphs that provides hallucinatory visions of the land of the Pharaohs.
The other side of the coin consists of black metal with elements of Nordic and Greek breeds merged into a well-functioning hybrid. A bit like Immortal meets Varathron. The black metal has a ripping drift and enough details for the listener to constantly discover something new. At least that's the impression I'm left with. I must have heard Titahion: Kaos Manifest at least half a dozen times, but I still don't feel as if I know the album well enough to formulate a review. Therefore, just an impression this time.
The bonding between metal and ceremonial mysticism goes hand in hand. Sometimes combined, but often as two halves of a larger whole that takes turn showing each hemisphere of its two-face, so to speak. The transitions can be both abrupt and seamless. The vocal sometimes feels located in the outskirts of the music in the mix, something I'm not overly excited about, but that's the only thing I have to nitpick at. Melodies and riffs can be hard to remember, but that can also have its advantages, as the durability isn't easily impaired.
Listen to Throne Among the Void below, and stream Titahion: Kaos Manifest in its entirety on No Clean Singing.
Inverse Records, 21.04.17
Slovenian Pyroxene was started in late December 2011, named after a group of geological minerals.
The band play what they call experimental heavy metal, and has to this date released five singles.
The quintet's first EP, simply called EP, consists of five songs spread over approximately 25 minutes.
One of the songs is a cover, and another stems from the band's previous release, two years old Helium - 3.
Otherwise, I'm guessing that EP consists of new material.
Fireborn is a reasonable gentle song that combines a bit of middle-eastern rhythms with scale-jogged twin guitars. Not very impressive, but certainly all right. The sound is round and the bass clear. The vocals are a bit divided, since both guitarists back up the main vocalist. This allows for a mix of lightly rugged and rather light clean vocals, muted guttural grunting and a few pitched heavy metal screams.
Bullets Fly is more of a blues-rocker. The AC/DC inspirations does however meet a vocal that is clean and somewhat smooth. Who should I compare this to? Sebastian Bach? I don't know. A simple and straightforward, but oh so forgettable song. Cleansed in Fire has a slightly darker touch of King Diamond. Unfortunately, big parts of the vocals really comes short. It sounds as if the singer is trying to stretch an octave higher than he's capable of. And it sounds somewhat out of key. When he allows his pitched screams to pour freely out of the throat and form high frequency words, however, it works much better. The song is alright, and shows potential.
A cover of Black Sabbath's Electric Funeral follows. Technically and sonically, it's fairly closely to the original. The vocals ain't. It's a decent version that would have earned praise for organic interaction between strings, if only it hadn't been done before. A prolonged version of said Helium - 3 rounds off the EP. This starts with droning low frequency before a guitar intro that reminds a wee bit of old Judas Priest comes into play. As soon as the vocals come along, the music flip over to power metallic misery. Something even the incomplete solo can't rectify.
The band almost sounds a bit too alright for a disapproval, but I'm tired of being kind to mediocrities. One swallow does not a summer make, and alright just doesn't cut it. The potential is there, but the material needs to be improved. And the vocalist keelhauled. The grading is perhaps a clue strict, but this would make an alright demo, not something that should have been released and sold as a full-fledged product. Cool cover, though.