Review Summary: If you only listen to 100 "crushing" albums with "killer riffs" this year, make this your 101st.
Ascension have always been a band completely of the moment. Without relying on throwbacks or "old school" aesthetic, these German metallers have always managed to sound strikingly modern, congealing with the glut of black metal bands popping up like weeds. It is to their benefit, however, to latch on to such a trend. Brushing off the more caustic aspects of the genre has allowed them to find moderate success from just about every group within the metal community. This is thanks in part to how easily Ascension are able to pull from a wide variety of modern day metal influences. The result is not what one would expect.
To be quite frank, Ascension are a faceless and souless sort of band. They're the black metal equivalent to the discount CDs you'd find in those vats in Wal-Mart. It's hard to figure out why they have never truly "nailed" what they were going for. After all, their latest has all the makings of a cross-over hit. Sweeping tracks are filled with thrash laden passages, while classic death metal beat downs pop up every now and again. Keyboards and pummeling drums help fill the incredibly meaty production. Yes, The Dead of the World
hits every mark and then some. Never does it play it to safe nor does it lose itself to contrived exploration.
And perhaps there lies the issue. The Dead of the World
, well, doesn't do much of anything
. It's cold without being chilling; it's colorless without being dark. Atmosphere is something that is such an indelible part of the genre that its absence here is glaring. Selections such as "The Dark Tomb" blast along acerbically, with tremolo picked fury cutting its way through. Yet the fact that these adjectives come forced is telling, as there is practically nothing within these seven tracks that truly inspires. Lacking in emotion the entirety of the record glosses by without so much as an icy stab or heart wrenching cry.
Maybe it's a little harsh to proclaim The Dead of the World
, and by that right, Ascension so blasé. The band doesn't do anything too terribly poorly. The vocals have a deep, earthy quality to them, while the rest of the band melds together seamlessly. And honestly in another setting the production would be immaculate. It's just that one cannot help but feel like there is a true marvel hidden within Ascension; at any moment the ensemble to come together just perfectly to create something unique and inspired. Too bad The Dead of the World
is anything but.