So about two weeks ago I was dicking around on Facebook while working and I stumbled onto this band ANCIENT ASCENDANT who were getting ready to put a record out, Echoes and Cinder, their second full-length and first for Candlelight Records. As soon as I pressed PLAY I was hooked. It’s almost like AMON AMARTH and SKELETONWITCH had a love child and their death metal doom unholy creation is ANCIENT ASCENDANT. With the almighty Dan Swanö in the producer’s chair they have managed to craft a near-masterpiece. I’m actually pissed I didn’t know about these guys till now, but that feeling goes away just a little bit more every time I play the record.
“Patterns of Bane” was my introduction to the band, and their use of acoustic guitars to accent the song’s feel and vibe may be one of the best moves I’ve seen pulled off in 2014. I was utterly blown away by this one. The fact that it wasn’t hyper-fast riffs and blast beats was a breath of fresh air. The whole thing is, really. Just because you play death metal or black metal or thrash doesn’t mean you have to be like EVERY other band out there making the same record as everyone else over and over and over. It gets mind-numbing after a while, believe me. Opener “Crones to the Flames” comes at you with authority and is no doubt here to fuck shit up, so get out of the way. I can see villages burning now!
“Riders” is another one that doesn’t waste any time and segues beautifully into the blackened thrash of “Fueling the Flare” the death march tempo in full swing. With each listen to this all I can see are medieval armies laying siege to everything that crosses their path, leaving a trail of blood and destruction in their wake. And as if to accentuate that point in telling fashion, short acoustic song “Embers” can only be described as the aftermath of a great battle as the survivors take stock of the destruction around them.
We are immediately ripped from our peaceful tranquility by the hammering drums of “To Break the Binds”, the track that sounds the most like AMON AMARTH which, by the way is meant as a compliment, as is my SKELETONWITCH reference. Those are two bands I hold in the highest regard so to see someone combining the best of both while still making it their own is a band that has my undivided attention from the first note to the last. Plus this one has my favorite solo on the record and one I hope to hear live one day.
For 7:46 “The Toll of Mourning” takes us on a journey of epic proportions and is one of the more intricately-structured cuts on the disc, singer/guitarist Alex Butler utilizing two vocal styles, both deliciously evil. To top it all off the frenetic drumming that permeates much of album closer “Caged In Tunnels of Time” is just skin pounder Dave Moulding’s way of reminding you how fucking tight and talented this band is. When I first heard ANCIENT ASCENDANT I predicted they would become my new obsession. I was right. Echoes and Cinder is a MUST HAVE for metalheads this year. Pick it up everywhere on March 25. In fact, pick two up and give one to a musically-challenged friend. They, and the Metal Gods, will thank you.
STANDOUT TRACKS: ALL OF THEM