I don’t usually find myself listening to much in the way of new death metal these days. Far too many death metal bands have been putting out far too many albums lately that all sound the same. That might be alright if they all sounded like the same good album, but unfortunately there is a glut of mediocre death metal bands out there. This isn’t to say there aren’t any death metal bands that I am listening to, but rather that the percentage of interesting new death metal bands compared to the percentage of cookie-cutter ones is quite low.
Ancient Ascendant, from the United Kingdom, is one death metal band that I do enjoy. I first came across these guys with the release of their 2011 debut, “The Grim Awakening.” Their follow-up EP, “Into the Dark” made it onto my best of 2012 list. So, naturally, when I saw they had released their second full-length, “Echoes and Cinder,” I was all over it posthaste.
I was hardly surprised to find that “Echoes and Cinder” is another step forward for Ancient Ascendant. These guys seem to understand something that far too many death metal bands apparently do not: just because you play death metal doesn’t mean you should make playing fast and heavy the most important thing; you have to concern yourself with song-craft too if you want to make a real impression. If all you are doing is playing fast, heavy generic riffs over top of blast beats while some dude growls, even if you are good at it, a thousand other bands have already put out that record. It’s the bands like Ancient Ascendant that craft musical compositions first, and play fast and heavy second, that stand out from the crowd and make me want to come back for a repeat listen.
I love that Ancient Ascendant aren’t afraid to put acoustic guitars on a death metal record. Not only does it allow their musicianship to shine through, it also makes for a nice palate cleanser between tracks. When the next heavy kicks back in I find it makes a much bigger impact than if I’d just gone from heavy track to heavy track. This is just one of the things that keep an album engaging.
The guitars on “Echoes and Cinder” sound incredible; heavy, yet clear, and cool riffs aplenty. The drums have plenty of punch and are mixed perfectly. The vocals are harsh, of course, and blend really well with the music to tie the whole sound together. I can’t think of anything about this album I would do differently.
My friend Buke texted me the other day to ask if I’d heard of these guys. I said “Hell yeah, I have!” I’m guessing he must have heard them on Liquid Metal or something. I’m glad that Ancient Ascendant is getting heard, because I think they easily have it in them to be one of the top death metal bands around. Check out the track “Patterns of Bane” to hear what I’m talking about. Hail Ancient Ascendant!