Saturday, February 5, 2011


Shredding dusty orthodox black metal. The personnel behind this project wish to remain anonymous but the rumour is that Ascension contains one or more members of the mighty German Katharsis and the music on "Consolamentum" more than bears the mark. Like Katharsis this is extremely thrash inspired black metal, like a fusion of primal Slayer and early Gorgoroth resulting in a potent mix reminiscent of the earlier days of Deathspell Omega or Antaeus. Such comparisons may seem lofty or biased but this is incredibly accomplished black metal, emerging from a deeper, festering place both musically and philosophically, allowing Ascension to easily step into the circle of black metal's obliquely elite and hold sway.
As crusted over as the sound is it's ultra-fast and played with fiery precision. Everything is chromaticism and trills and the pace rarely becomes anything less than blasting. When it does it's more to lend an introspective air to the song rather than any sort of reprieve. Everything follows the previous thing, every statement made succinctly and with economy. The whole affair has a heavy death metal vibe to me even if the music doesn't agree; i simply could not shake the atmospheric similarity to the early '90's Florida scene. The obvious touchstone would be Deicide's "Amon-Feasting the Beast", with both records reveling in hyper-speed hymns to the fallen angel, drenched in reverb and crackling over with dirt and ghostly echoes. Both bands also treaded a thin line between serious insight and self-parodying hyperbole, but while Deicide have fallen hard into the latter category with a spate of uninspired releases across the last two decades Ascension come across as both deathly frightening and eerily prophetic. There's an air of mysticism to this record that goes beyond its interest in satanic pontification, a questioning of all religious philosophy and belief shared amongst most of the better othodox black metal bands. This isn't evil for evil's sake-these guys know their shit and want you to start thinking about it in a more intellectual way. It isn't just "fuck god"-it's everything past that.
The violent approach of the music is a mere conveyance for the delivery of the philosophy. I'm reminded heavily of the credo adorning the back of Hell Militia's first album: mutilate your flesh to widen your sight. It's an idea i fell in love almost immediately, for both its graphic suggestion as well as the inherent truth in that suggestion. Pain and violence are the simplest tools we have at our disposal to begin to reach into the beyond. Tapping into pain, be it physical or emotional, yields an insight and a level of reflection that we're mostly incapable of when we're in our natural state. Ascension's choice to destroy at 1000 mph is the sonic equivalent rendered into black metal form. The production value adds to this by creating an extra layer of strain to work through in order to appreciate and understand everything that's being thrown towards you. The violence is the vehicle, the music is the truth.
While Katharsis are more or less orthodox as well, they don't take it to this level of seriousness. Katharsis also extol a number of radical stances regarding nationalism and substance abuse, distilling whatever subconscious message they might hope to convey through their music. Ascension succeed by delivering the questions, using the velocity of the music to inspire an aura of inward reflection, a rapid fire blur of punishment designed to invoke something transcendent in the listener. Katharis operate on a much more base (but no less enjoyable) level, using violence and speed to approach a level of hypnotic less-ness, a separation from consciousness and thinking owing more to an altered state than an altered way of thinking. Ascension are not for the close minded, either musically or ideologically. "Consolamentum" stands as a triumph of BM orthodoxy, as well as one of the most violent musical frenzies of the year. Recommended for anyone into Antaeus, Aosoth or the whole Norma Evangelium Diaboli camp-simply excellent.

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