Ascension Lost

Written by: EW on 28/01/2015 20:17:27

Now extending their pilgrimage into the heart of frosty melodic black metal, Thulcandra return after a lengthier absence than which preceded their second album to provide the soundtrack to another dark, cold winter. By now having proven themselves to be more than a mere pet project of Steffen Kummerer (of Obscura fame) via the release of three admirable full lengths, I yet still find it difficult to fully accept the act as anything more than a tribute to the genre, let alone a tribute to Dissection. Thankfully the Dissection plagiarism has decreased with each consecutive effort and the band now more than ever stand on their own two feet musically, but the persistence with the overtly stereotypical blue Necrolord cover art on every record undermines any effort to form a unique identity, such is the instant recognition of that style for any metalhead worth their salt to classic records of past times.

A bolder approach on that front might serve to push Thulcandra into higher profile leagues as the ten compositions on "Ascension Lost" certainly justify a loftier status for the Bavarians. The band remain hugely technically astute and capable performers and songwriters, of that there is no doubt. At every turn there is something to admire in the depth of the songs, whether that be the prolific hammering of new drummer Erebor or the interwoven styles of Kummerer's guitar, fellow guitarist Sebastian Ludwig and even twin brother bassist Tobias Ludwig who provides more than just a mere bottom end. Frequently played at an intense pace in the likes of "Exalted Resistance”, the title track and epic opener "The First Rebellion" the subtle interplay between the two guitarists is magnificent, with one often heard playing cold dark leads over an assortment of highly engaging rhythms before joining together for numerous powerful blasts to lay a fresh layer of snow over their jagged windswept peaks. Just as notable however are the slower paced tracks - the groovy "Throne of Will", "The Second Fall" - and the individual moments of restraint placed throughout "Sorrow of the One" and the classically tinged interlude and outro, all of which display a versatility often beyond the merits of many bands who stick more regimentally to higher speeds, in turn doing themselves out of some of variation littered across a Thulcandra release.

Despite all this I’m having a hard time justifying to myself awarding "Ascension Lost" an 8+ it's musical attributes so patently deserve. While their debut "Fallen Angel’s Dominion" wonderfully aped Dissection, follow-up "Under A Frozen Sun" picked up the ball considerably and provides highlight tracks exceeding the best moments here. Consider also how the overall aesthetic of Thulcandra has not really advanced into album three as the same ploughs are still being furrowed and I am left with the sense that while "Ascension Lost" is a very well constructed and enjoyable album on it’s own merits the lack of stylistic progress adds a pall of darkness to the bleak wintry tomes heard emanating from every track.

Download: The First Rebellion, Exalted Resistance, Ascension Lost
For The Fans Of: Dissection, Unanimated, Dark Fortress
Listen: Facebook

Release date 30.01.2015
Napalm Records

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