Review Summary: With "Saturn In Ascension", Danish doomsters take cues from their former releases to craft a melodically melancholy and powerful album.
I'm a fan of Saturnus on Facebook, and every now and then I'll check my newsfeed and I see they've posted something new, for instance news of shows, reviews they appreciated, and so on. But one thing I've consistently noticed is their lack of exclamation points in their posts. Other bands (even seemingly darker ones like Amenra or Rorcal) use them, but Saturnus never does. This displays their music almost perfectly: subtle, simple, and melancholic.
I have heard their two previous releases "Veronika Decides to Die" and "Martyre" and both proved to me to be extremely solid and yet diverse in comparison to one another. "Martyre" built upon a primary hopeless sound, utilizing choir samples, strings, and an overall minor sound, whereas "Veronika Decides to Die" had more of a piano and simple melodic guitar base. I favored the latter (except for the ridiculous title), since it seemed more heartfelt and simple, and it became the soundtrack for a difficult time in my life, due to its incredibly sad and honest approach.
Their new album "Saturn in Ascension" builds upon the sounds of both former albums, creating a sound much like their latest, but increasing their soundscape to include influences from "Martyre." Opener "Litany Of Rain" sounds like something from this album, building the sound and atmosphere with a choir and melodic plucking. Where this is a very good song, it is not consistent with the following track "Wind Torn", which takes a far more melodic approach and does match with the opener in terms of style. This shift in sound is one of the few flaws of the album.
"A Lonely Passage" is one of my favorites of the album, and is comparable to "All Alone" off of "Veronika Decides to Die", due to its lack of death vocals, including only speaking. But this track adds some more tricks, to keep it from being a complete ripoff of its soundalike. It includes some almost Celtic guitar resonance, adding to overall yearning of the lyrics, as well as a guest opera vocalist who adds her gorgeous vocals, which float above the climax of the song. Later track "Call Of The Raven Moon" is also an instance of experimentation in beautiful simplicity, as it showcases spoken vocals, acoustic guitar, and flute.
"A Father's Providence" exhibits perfectly the marriage between their former releases. The song opens to chugging guitars, choral samples, and a melodic piano line over top. The combination of these factors create a powerful yet sad sound, and the entirety of the song is a highlight of the album. Thomas Nielsen's vocals shine in this track particularly. The track "Mourning Sun", the most death metal-influenced track of the album, also showcases his style very well.
Much like "Veronika Decides to Die", Jensen utilizes three basic vocal styles: an impressively powerful low growl/grunt (he could honestly probably front a slam-death band), a mid-range shout/roar, and speaking. Each of these approaches is unique and compliments the music very well, however his shout is probably the weakest of these, however they worked incredibly well with "Pretend" off of their former release. His vocals, along with the melody present, is something that separates Saturnus from their peers such as Mourning Beloveth, Swallow the Sun, or Shape of Despair.
Closers "Forest Of Insomnia" and "Between" show something else present in Saturnus' sound: a sense of uplift. Through the driving guitars, slow beats, and grunting vocals, a melody intertwines itself with the heavy sound. The former showcases hints of technicality, as guitarist Rune Stiassny shows off some lively finger-tapping and soloing, something not often seen in doom. "Between" gives more justice to the title's "in ascension" part, as its sound is almost interpreted as transcendent. The sad atmosphere, combined with the melodious plucking, gives a sense of looking up to the raining sky and seeing the sun emerge from behind the clouds. It includes as it closes a choral sample along with a melodious cello before erupting into its final climax.
Some versions of the album include a bonus track, entitled "Limbs of Crystal Clear", which is a remastered version of a track from a demo back in 1994. The track is essentially death metal, from their earlier days, and honestly has no purpose but to show how far they've come. It does not flow with the rest of the tracks, as its production value is terrible, and the guitar is raw and screaming, and the vocals are drowning. But I'm not including this in the overall rating, as it is clearly separate from the album "Saturn In Ascension."
Overall, "Saturn In Ascension" is an incredible release for anyone interested in the doom genre. Combining brutality with striking, complimenting, and contrasting beauty, the guys of Saturnus have created a work of art, one of sadness and of subtle hopeful sanguinity. Recommended for fans of Swallow the Sun, Mourning Beloveth, and other melodic doom artists.