Under Ether by AscensionRelease date: March 30, 2018
Label: W.T.C. Productions
German esotericists Ascension first came to my attention with the release of their 2010 debut full length Consolamentum especially with the incessant fire and trembling blasts of ‘Grey Light Sibling’. They made quite an introduction. Sophomore album The Dead Of The World followed with even more occult-infused orthodox black metal, possibly outdoing its predecessor. Now four years on they return with their third all-consuming offering Under Ether, a rather brilliant black metal album that falls somewhere between their first two.
For those unfamiliar with the enigmatic Germans, Ascension consists of five members of which very little is known, in fact I still don’t even know their names, as they are one of those collectives who hide in the blackness and allow the music to speak for itself. Fair enough. Ascension lives and breathes the occult and their albums follow this teaching to the letter.
‘Ever Staring Eyes’ leads the album following a brief intro of Twin Peaks fandom. Atonal riffage whirls around a marching beat of blasts and more staggered hits leading into an emotive solo. The blast beats are sparse but pin your ears to the wall with their sheer mass, clearly chosen to create impact without the need of constant blasting. The energetic ‘Dreaming In Death’ flies by with a muscular riff backed by thumping drum hits. The music here is gargantuan and rife with hefty guitars and catchy throne work jolting along at a nippy pace as opposed to the sloggish and slowburning two tracks that follow. ‘Thalassophobia’ picks things up with one of the albums best, roaring along with blast-beating abandon and a Floyd-esque solo capping it off in beautiful style.
Many of the tracks follow the same dynamic so it does take several listens… several enjoyable listens to appreciate and pick out the nuanced art that resounds within each riff or beat. Take ‘Stars To Dust’ for example, its weighty guitar work drags you into its story, especially the almost sluggish riff that repeats itself throughout the track becoming more mesmeric as time passes. The real star though of this release is ‘Vela Dare’. Talk about saving the best until last! That manic skin-ripping tremolo alongside hyper-blasting make this the albums heaviest point. The second half of the track is just as furious with wailing riffage and solos tearing along joyously to flawless and gloriously incessant blast beats ending the album in the best possible way.
Under Ether certainly does the job of captivating you in all the right places, though subdued and slow paced in parts it does still pummel you with its harrowing textures and nuances within each carefully thought-out track. It took me several listens before fully appreciating this and at first this review felt like a different story with a different outcome. The musicianship is tight and flooded with memorable moments that along with the band’s impressive songwriting show that Ascension have the ability and name to climb beyond genre leaders like Nightbringer.