In which Toilet Tuesday Contributor Bert Banana discusses the mind-boiling horror of San Diego’s premiere death metal monstrosity, Ascended Dead.
Admittedly, when it comes to Death Metal, I haven’t done my due diligence in keeping up with what’s fresh. So you better believe that I had no idea who Ascended Dead was when I said “yes” to review the material. With that said, it’s safe to say that this weekend has been filled with regret. Regret of not keeping up, because this shit fucking rips so fucking hard.
Let’s start with the cover art. Here we are greeted by this very fine black and white cover with what appears to be a Sarlacc coming out of whatever nihilistic abyss it resides in. While it is a pretty straightforward cover, it leaves a question unanswered: why is the Sarlacc revealing itself? I don’t see any prey nearby. Perhaps it’s lonely. Maybe it just wants to howl at the moon. Whatever the reason may be, there is one thing clear – it’s terrifying. I imagine this is the type of creation that comes from a serious bout of sleep paralysis fuelled by a bad mushroom trip. They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but I think this is a case where you get a clear idea of what you’re getting yourself into.
This album wastes little time. While we’re greeted with some atmosphere building ambience for the first 45 seconds, this album just starts ripping and tearing in a similar manner as that Sarlacc to your sanity if you even encountered it in your dreams. For the first 4 songs, we’re blessed with an onslaught of blasts, buzzsaw guitars, grimy bass and nightmarish vocals. But, with all that brutality, comes an incredible amount of technical proficiency that’s right up there with the likes of Ulcerate or Blood Incantation. There is so much chaos just within the first 4 tracks, that it nearly borders on being overwhelming, but sweet void, is it ever exhilarating.
Which brings me to the 5th track, “Dormant Souls.” While there is much to be said about the rawness, the brutality and the technicality of what Ascended Dead brings to this album, this song shows just how well planned and executed this entire album is. The acoustic number brings a much-needed break and allows the listener to relax… even if it’s for only 3.5 mins before dragging them by their ankle down through a spiral of terror.
Much of what was said about the first half of the album can be said about the second half. Don’t take this as a bad thing, either. Some of the standout tracks come from the second half of the album (“Last Ritual” and “Fissure of Chaos come to mind”). Given how relentless this album is, the 37 min runtime is perfect, and it really helps that it is paced out nicely. “Inexorable Death” does a good job closing the album out by slowing it down and reining in some control before fading out. One thing to note is that this album is exhausting. After multiple listens while writing this, I’m ready to hit the sack.
Overall, this is a fantastic debut album. The track layout shows a lot of maturity and awareness of the material. The artwork is fantastic and incredibly relevant to the music. There are no pulled punches. This is a band that went all out and delivered the goods. I am very excited to see what Ascended Dead will bring to the future of death metal
Many thanks to Bert for the guest review.