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If there are any key elements to Ancient Ascendant’s sound, it is riffs, dynamics, and shifts in tempo and time-signatures, all of which are exploited on ‘The Grim Awakening’ to maximum effect. The complex structures of each song are built on fluid-yet-firm foundations of a vast array of ever-shifting riffs that scarcely rest on one groove or feel before shifting to another more complex dynamic. Take ‘The Scorn of Dead Men’ and ‘Bleeding in Exile’ as examples of the band’s obvious control over both instrumentation and arrangement. The latter’s bass-dominated bookends frame a track that is brimming with grim grooves, time-signature changes, and a (sadly too brief) down-tempo middle section, all of which proffer riff after riff of chaotic control. ‘Once Numb’ and ‘Sorrow’s Score’ – both showcases for Dave Moulding’s skins work – are both colossal in scope and magnitude. The mightily slow double-kick groove in the closing section of ‘Sorrow’s Score’ is one of huge proportions that build into even stronger dimensions. The guitar work and dynamics in structure that make ‘Lost Rage in the Dying Light’ the album’s most ambitious piece, pushing the band into dimensions that are somehow fuller, the acoustic section that leads into the coda in being particularly outstanding. The remaining three tracks are, as before, loaded with riffs and the by-now expected shifts, of note being the closing track ‘Titan’, a track as enormous as its name implies, that is one of the best tracks here. Ancient Ascendant’s musicianship and technical prowess is both a blessing and a burden. The perpetually shifting riffs, tempos, time signatures, and dynamics make ‘The Grim Awakening’ a demanding work and, though ambitious, at times it can be difficult to digest, even predictable in its unpredictability. Before long, the changes become expected and, expectation fulfilled, prove less effective than perhaps intended and because of this appear too ordinary to be exceptional. The production is also very good, the only downside being Alex Butlers’s growls being overshadowed by the guitar in the mix, begging the question as to whether this is a band or guitar album. That said, ‘The Grim Awakening’ is a massive work that is abundant in riffs that of which, not many can be flawed as each are as complex as they are robust. The melodic lead work that flesh out the songs and the juxtaposition of guitar lines that pull against each other are moments of pure death metal decadence. Ancient Ascendant balance technical ability with the complexities of death metal to make ‘The Grim Awakening’ an accomplished album.
Siege of Amida Records
Review by Jason Guest
15th August 2011
1) The Scorn of Dead Men
2) Once Numb
3) Bleeding in Exile
4) Sorrow's Score
5) Grim Awakenings
6) Lost Rage in the Dying Light
7) Ravenous Undead of the Dead
8) Forced Insight
9) Titan
"Ancient Ascendant balance technical ability with the complexities of death metal to make ‘The Grim Awakening’ an accomplished album."