Ancient Ascendant – Echoes And Cinder (PR2014 SPOTLIGHT) – Ancient Ascendant is a recently signed act to Candlelight and they certainly deserve it. A mix of Arsis, Amon Amarth and Skeletonwitch, there’s definitely something to be said for these guys. The guitars play around with thrash, groove, prog and black metal making for an interesting sound all of the way through. The vocal approach is especially potent with the frontman launching forth a venomous scowl that is unmistakably well-done. There’s even a little bit of southern blues influence in the disc, as well as some piano and acoustic bits that you wouldn’t have expected.
“Crone To Flames 5:31” begins the album with a modern black metal approach (albeit with loads of groove) as the prog melodies come into place to create further structure while the thick grooves accentuate the easily memorable chorus. Some Amon Amarth leads now begin to play as I’m highly reminded of their earlier and more recallable material. A nice acoustic break comes into the song, as the whole thing just goes right back into power-grooves. “Patterns Of Bane 5:47” sounds like proggy black metal (with still loads of groove) and it eventually kicks into high gear when the drums start blasting to accentuate the chorus. “Riders 5:13” is next, as the thrash comes in quite menacingly; then a solo breaks forth into the track. It’s a southern-fried solo and I don’t mind it. “Fueling The Flare 6:05” comes in with a memorable melody right from the start. Then some Enslaved riffs come into play as the drums kick up and welcome the death metal gravel, which is also helmed by the frontman. He’s got a great scowl and growl, which makes for a strong performance. The song slows as to offer some ominous sections, then the band barrel right into almost a sort of doom-natured sound, before rolling back into prog. As far as structure is concerned, this thing is on all sorts of HGH. After a monument like that, we need a little bit of a break, which is what “Embers 2:37” offers. The piano and acoustics work well together on the track along with the light tribal drumming and shakers to allow for a sort of primordial atmosphere. Things actually get a little Dead Can Dance, which is something I wouldn’t expect for an album as vicious as this one can sometimes be. But hell, I’ll allow this kind of experimenting. It’s great when all the songs don’t carry the same mood or melody and I think it was a great idea to give us that break.
The next track is “To Break The Binds 5:55” which puts us right back into familiar territory. Enslaved riffs thunder in as some rock influence breaks through, to allow the gravel approach to come later in the piece. Someone tell this guy to use the gravel more. I think this album would have been even better with more gravel, especially seeing as how well the approach is done. The man sounds like a stone golem and that’s what I want to hear. “The Toll Of Mourning 7:45” goes between black metal, disco black metal and death metal in approach, which work together to create a strong and memorable approach. Even the gravel comes back into the mix, as some tingly leads fall right in shortly after. Now with a song this fucking long, you’ve got to have a solo – and that’s what they give me here. The disc doesn’t end with a ballad, as “Caged In Tunnels Of Time 6:56” shows the band at their very thickest. The drums begin pummeling, but then the melodies come in rather beautifully to illustrate a menacing chorus. Thing chugs help to open a lead which I think is going to become a solo… but it doesn’t, as the song instead pushes the thick drumming and some light melodies into the mix to allow for another strong chorus. This is actually one of the band’s catchier tracks and a good representation of them as a whole. If they’re making a video, this would be my pick for a single to make said video from. So they’ve definitely ended it on a strong note.
Ancient Ascendant definitely have something to show with this record, and it’s certainly worthy of being spotlighted here on the Tower. I’m not sure how these guys came up with this unique approach to black metal that rocks and jams as much as it shivers, but they managed to do it and that’s quite a feat. Of course, it’s not just black metal as there are so many other things going on in the release. But that’s just another reason why I like it. I do feel that the gravel could have been used a bit more in the beginning, there’s just a bit too much scowl and it just sort of pops up on the listener. Unfortunately, if the band chose to use one of the songs in which no vocal gravel appeared, it could give a misleading image of the band. Echoes And Cinder is an album that you’ll definitely have to experience all of the way through to enjoy, but fans of bands like Inter Arma, Arsis, Enslaved, Amon Amarth, Skeletonwitch and others should certainly find something to this new school of black metal. Yet then again, it isn’t black metal either… So what do we call it, then? Shadow metal?
(8 Tracks, 48:00)