Ascend
Ample Fire Within

Now I’m in my element. Two mighty forces combine to create a wonderfully seething and morphing slab of extreme doom/drone. Gentry Densley and Greg Anderson do well in keeping things familiar but also fresh and innovative. Densley (Iceburn and Eagle Twin) is definitely lesser known among the community, unlike the giant Greg Anderson (Sunn 0))), Thorr’s Hammer, Burning Witch, Engine Kid, Goatsnake, you name it), but they make such a great match with this album. Certainly lines between genres have been blurred, but also that infernaly slippery line between “noise” and “music”. And of course that line has had many tred marks made on it, but not in quite the same way as these two dance that line.

If you know of Sunn 0)))’s catalogue, then much of this album will sound somewhat familiar. There are moments of relentless, bowel-churning drone ala “Flight of The Behemoth”, and also plenty of the soft, astral atmospheres approached in the two White albums. But this record also seems to have a moderate injection of backwoods, southern grit. Some of it due to Densley’s gruff take on “singing” (which works very well, in my opinion), but there seems to be something else there, in the atmosphere itself. Some of the riffing leans toward southern sludge feel, mostly in the second half of the albu. In fact most of this album sounds like some sort of Louisiana black magic incantation. But maybe that’s just me. Regardless, I will say this album is damn interesting. There is a great variety, and all of it works despite the gap in styles and influences. It’s disjointed yet organic, discordant yet sonorous.

Opener “The Obelisk Of Kolob” is a pretty hefty introduction. Rising distortion and feedback until guitar, drums, bass and trombones all crash and rumble in unison. It’s primal and barbaric in intensity, and for some reason gives me the imagry of giant gates being opened slowly. It’s a (relatively) short opener, but marvelously effective.

The title track features a welcome guest apperance from Attila Csihar, and probably resembles Sunn 0)))’s recent work more than the rest of the album. The track doesn’t really fall into any tempo, and the snaking, meandering melody is elusively unsettling. The highlight of this track probably being the vocals, Atilla doing some very gravelly chanting, and Densley in his usual wiskey-drenched howl. I’d also say this track is the most “out there” of all them. Due mostly in part to myriad of unique sounds, shapes and gestures featured in this song.

“Divine” might be my favorite. It probably won’t appeal to the extreme doom/drone audience most of this album gears towards, but it definitely offers some variety and character to the album. It’s a little bluesy, and definitely harkens to Sunn 0)))’s more mellow and atmospheric tracks (“Bass Aliens” immediately came to mind). Densley’s vocals take center stage here as he groans some sort of a drunken lullaby. In the lyrics he tells of a dream where lions eat him and he becomes part of them, “ruling the divine”. Then eagles eat the lions and then crows pick the bones clean. Though it might take getting used to, Densley’s howling vocals are really quite effective.

“V O G” opens with sounds of some sort of middle eastern incantation (the noodling double reed instruments and percussion are what tipped me off to that particular ethnicity). But before long its a southern, quazi-bluesy dirge with plodding drums and guitars. And also a guitar solo, which tops off this swampy/stoner vibe (as well as Densley’s monotonous, chanting vocals). This track doesn’t really offer much, but it does it’s job.

And now after reading the description of “V O G”, I realize that “Her Horse Is Thunder” fits pretty much the same description. Except it doesn’t really have vocals (save some constant and wordless backing vocals), and has this churning organ which adds to the atmosphere nicely. Again, not a bad track, but doesn’t really do much for me.

“Dark Matter” is definitely the climax of this album, ending it with some real intensity. The first half is a quiet and still drone. It’s unsettling and constantly feels like it could explode. Feedback rises as Densley does his chanting, until finally it explodes in chunks of trombone, bass, guitar and organ. This track has a real sense of direction, and makes it one of the album’s best.

So, all in all I’d say this is a winner for any experiemental doom fan. It’s eclectic and pretty well-rounded. In school, I probably would have gotten points off for a conclusion this short. Oh well.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Belgarath
April 9th, 2009

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