Unfurl
Ascension


4.2
excellent

Review

by Mitch Worden STAFF
June 4th, 2023 | 42 replies


Release Date: 06/02/2023 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Houston, we're f*cked.

The glories of space travel have decorated works of fiction for decades, captivating audiences through grand narratives showing the beauty of otherworldly locales and entrancing alien life. Think Mass Effect, yeah? All the finely-rendered environments of gorgeous fauna, varied landscapes, that nature kind of stuff. For the purposes of Unfurl’s latest effort, toss that sh*t out the window; Ascension is less of a polished, carefree jaunt and more of a violent launch into an asteroid belt where Houston has many problems. There’s no sightseeing to be had, replaced instead by a disorienting venture into an intimidating unknown, with any instance of peace shattered by sudden attacks on the ship’s exterior. It’s not long before the Pittsburgh gang corner a listener into their brand of cosmic bedlam, gradually closing in the walls until only the empty blackness of the final frontier can be perceived.

Conceptually, Unfurl’s third record emerges from a different, albeit similarly discomforting realm--the seemingly distant, yet all too recent pandemic lockdown, and the revelations that came with it. However, as was the case on The Waking Void, the collective’s strengths lie in their hazy, heavily atmospheric approach that portrays voyages through realms obscured, taking cues from the likes of Harlots’ early work. Where Ascension begins to differ is how intense it can become; as cliche it can be to describe a release as ‘THE HEAVIEST RECORD YET!!1!,’ the Pennslyvannia gents undeniably walk the walk, with an enhanced sludge edge providing an immense punch to proceedings. In instances where the audience may have once been given room to breathe, Unfurl instead increase the pressure via elongated breakdowns or unforgiving, sludged-to-hell stretches that the band wields like a sledgehammer, crushing any unfortunate travelers that pass by.

The central dynamic of Ascension revolves around how that aforementioned sludge aspect cooperates with the trademark blackened post-metalcore sound of the group. One is constantly pushing the other, establishing a tug-of-war where each jostles for prime positioning, which crafts an experience less focused on the light psychedelic dalliances of yesteryear and more upon a suffocating methodology. In the case of “Burning Question,” it’s nearly exhausting; the tune plows through hefty slabs of punishing sludge riffs, only to intermittently burst in an eruption of blast beats and ominous guitars that possess a mathcore-like technical flair, keeping listeners consistently off-balance as surroundings shift. For tracks such as “Gossamer Ladder,” the hulking, rhythmic obliteration of Bleak reigns, inserting a frenetic energy alongside a thunderous bass-boosted groove, whereas “Trembling in the Threshold” drags proceedings to a disgusting crawl through pounding guitars. The destruction becomes mesmerizing as it repeats, drawing passengers furth in the depths as the crashing instrumentation builds to a fever pitch.

Beginning with “Hyperviolet Estuary”--a moody number buoyed by its shoegaze aesthetic and faraway clean singing--Unfurl’s sprawling cacophony blossoms into something unexpected, diminishing the brutality to allow progressive leanings to enter the fray. A once claustrophobic atmosphere, buoyed by its oppressive heaviness, expands into a sound defined by graceful melodies, careful crescendos and ethereal interludes that offer a respite from harsher sections. The concluding pair of “Entity Reunion in the Sky” and “Longitudes & Leylines” encapsulate this amazing metamorphosis, with the former gradually evolving out of winding progressive riffs into a death metal-tinged finale, and the latter developing beyond elegant strumming into a soaring melodic conclusion that delicately drifts into the distance.

From its violent introduction to its surprisingly striking finale, everything about Ascension clicks together like a grand puzzle; the album’s flow is practically seamless, allowing the onslaught of Unfurl’s aggressive style to maintain momentum while simultaneously orchestrating smooth motions towards calmer realms. That surprise evolution--an album devoted to demolishing anything in its path transforming into a progressive behemoth--is an incredible thrill to hear unfold. It speaks to the songwriting strengths of a band that has meticulously refined their post-metalcore framework, leading to a sound capable of uncompromising heaviness offset by stray glimpses of tranquility. The all-consuming dissonance of the crew’s pandemonium leads the charge, and their haze-ridden soundscapes await to capture anyone caught wandering off into deep space. In a quiet year for -core music, Ascension towers triumphantly as both a superb artistic statement from a young collective and the LP-to-beat in the genre this year.




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user ratings (39)
3.6
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
MarsKid
Staff Reviewer
June 4th 2023


20944 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

Slightly dragged my feet, have been writing constantly these past two weeks and my tank is nearing empty. AH. But we made it. This is a hell of an album and incredibly cohesive, consistent, heavy as hell, all that good stuff.



Bandcamp link: https://vnfvrl.bandcamp.com/album/ascension



Also available on Spotify. This is not an Apple.



Let me know what y'all think!

Mort.
June 4th 2023


24844 Comments


our good friend wacknizzles band no?

MarsKid
Staff Reviewer
June 4th 2023


20944 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

The legend themselves!

Ashtiel
June 4th 2023


1445 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

stumbled upon this last week and sampled "Gossamer Ladder" which knocked me on my ass in the best way, similar to Glassing or Cult Leader. excited to dive into a full listen of this soon.

pizzamachine
June 4th 2023


26519 Comments


Pretty heavy

BitterJalapenoJr
Contributing Reviewer
June 4th 2023


994 Comments


Top write-up as always.

This is kicking my arse.

Calc
June 4th 2023


17308 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

i fucking knew you would review this as soon as I listened to it a few days ago and loved it lol. didn't know it was a sput band but it rules. good good stuff

wacknizzle
June 4th 2023


14555 Comments


Awesome review Mars! Glad you mentioned Harlots, that was a big influence

Gnocchi
Staff Reviewer
June 4th 2023


18241 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

I need to listen to this a little more but I feel a 4/5 coming on.

Manatea
Contributing Reviewer
June 5th 2023


1858 Comments


Started this and loving so far

MarsKid
Staff Reviewer
June 5th 2023


20944 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

Welcome to the party everyone, appreciate the good vibes and hope y'all are enjoying!



@wacknizzle I remember us nerding out about Harlots back in the day, very good band to be taking inspiration from!

wacknizzle
June 6th 2023


14555 Comments


Same Mars, with Coiled Serpent in particular we tried to conjure some Betrayer and This Is The Second Death vibes. The flow of the album also has a little touch of their influence as well.

Ecnalzen
June 6th 2023


12163 Comments


ooo, Harlots as an influence? I'm even more intrigued now

I also see Eden Maine up there! I am even more more intrigued, oh my

wheeliemakesyouthink
June 6th 2023


44 Comments


This reads like chatgpt was asked to create a review from a Redditor pov. Cringe.

Band sounds pretty good...been done a thousands times before though.

MarsKid
Staff Reviewer
June 6th 2023


20944 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

Well that's a new one. I'm sorry you didn't like it my man.



@Ecna there's definitely some Harlots here, good place to take inspiration from!

MunsuLight
June 6th 2023


711 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Unsure about how to rate this. What throw me off is the fact that there is not a common sound to the album. Like the 2 last tracks are definitively more in the realm of prog. There are track that could be close to some death, some are more in the blackened metalcore kind of thing.



I did enjoy it, but it just make it discohesive to me.. Probably gonna stay it unrated and come back to it at some point





trilo
June 6th 2023


6007 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

sheesh this is fire so far

wacknizzle
June 6th 2023


14555 Comments


@MunsuLight: There are different flavors of here. Each song has its own character but we tried to make it as cohesive as possible. The sound kind of evolves throughout the course of the record.

@trilo 😎

Mort.
June 6th 2023


24844 Comments


This reads like chatgpt was asked to create a review from a Redditor pov. Cringe.

MarsKid
Staff Reviewer
June 7th 2023


20944 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

i am WOUNDED



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