Album Review :
Ascendant - The Alteration

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Artist: Ascendant
Title: The Alteration
Label: Independent
Release Date: 3/10/12
Reviewer: Taylor C.

Tracklisting:

  1. The Alteration
  2. Legacy
  3. Shadows of Wealth
  4. Degradation Part 1
  5. Degradation Part 2
  6. Let’s Mount Up
  7. Unveil the Darkness
  8. Disgrace for Stagnation
  9. Consolation
  10. The Astral Sleep
  11. Epilog Catharsis

What do you get when you put a death metal CD, a black metal CD, and a metalcore CD in a blender? Well, literally, you get shards of pure polycarbonate plastic, aluminum and dried lacquer—but figuratively you might get Ascendant’s debut album, The Alteration. Ascendant is a Danish metal band formed in 2006 that takes all three of these genres, tastefully sews their individual body parts into one Frankenstein-esque monster of an album and zaps it with electricity.

The amazing thing about this record is how well the genres work together. It’s like a psychotically musical science experiment. The black metal elements keep the death metal and metalcore from forming generic deathcore, and the metalcore gives what would be blackened death metal a more progressive edge. Even if you only like one or two of these genres, you’re bound to enjoy something on this album—if you like all three, then merry Christmas! You’re going to love Ascendant’s mutant addition to the periodic table.

Ascendant kicks their album off with “The Alteration,” the gloomy, predominately blackened death metal title-track that begins with anxious, paranoid screams, but eventually gives way to low death growls, a black metal riff, and prolifically pelting drums. I have to add that the drums, not only on this track, but the entire album as well, are insanely good. It’s been a while since a drummer of a Christian metal band has impressed me this much.

The next track, “Legacy” (whose lyrics concern the Old Testament story of David), is a good example of how the band uses all of its musical elements to its advantage. Shrill black-metal guitars open the track, transitioning smoothly into chunky but melodic death metal riffs that incorporate a thick and catchy breakdown. Those who aren’t fans of the shrieks of black metal will be happy to know that the vocalist mainly sticks with highs and lows most commonly associated with the death metal vocal style—ranging from deep grunts and low growls to high snarls and the more throaty technique reminiscent of Tomas Lindberg (At The Gates).

Some of the tracks have more influences from one metal genre than another, while others mesh them together as closely as they can. In my opinion, “Unveil The Darkness” is simply the best combination of all three. I could easily go through each of The Alteration‘s tracks because they are incredible in their own individual ways, but I’ll only focus on the following few.

If you have a sweet tooth for metalcore breakdowns, definitely check out “Degradation Part 2.” The dark blasts just hammer the listener in the face from beginning to end, nearly tearing his spine out of his ears…only taking a “break” during the slower breakdowns to make sure he’s still alive.

Along with “The Alteration,” “Let’s Mount Up” is almost entirely black metal. It doesn’t quite escape from the chugging death vibes, but its shrill and harsh guitars will definitely raise the horns of the corpse-painted.

“Disgrace for Stagnation,” on the other hand, is almost pure melodic death metal. It’s one of the most canorous tracks but still manages to sound extremely raw and vicious. It begins with a thumping bass solo, leads into an amazing riff whose melody eventually begins to build as the vocalist (with fry vocals) whispers of revolution. This already tense atmosphere then gives way to quick guitar twinges between breakdowns and eventually a well-earned drum solo. The track then crawls off into the distance to the sound of death roars, another crunchy riff and the vocalist shrieking for the listener “to break free.”

Finally, “Consolation” is noteworthy because it uses clean vocals in the chorus, and “Epilog Catharsis” ends the album with a heavy and epic instrumental bang.

If these random descriptions haven’t either sold you or made you stop reading, Ascendant has provided two free tracks here so you can sample the album for yourself.

Overall: The Alteration is so good that it took me a while to get the review off the ground—it felt like a choice between saying nothing or everything because there’s really so much here. If you’re a fan of death metal, black metal, or progressive metalcore, check these guys out. This combination could have easily failed if handled incorrectly, but it didn’t—it’s aliiiiive.

RIYL: A Hill To Die Upon, At The Gates, Becoming The Archetype, Dagon, Gojira, Meshugga, Miseration, Pantokrator.

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