Ancient Ascendant – Raise The Torch

As far back as 2008, with the independently released EP The Heathen Throne, Ancient Ascendant have been very clear in their intentions. And with a couple more EPs and two very well received albums under their belts, the English Black/Death Metal quartet have raised the bar again with latest full length, Raise The Torch (Candlelight).

Once more under the supervision of producer Dan Swanö (Opeth, Dissection, Katatonia), the band have augmented their style even further by not only taking their usual patchwork of influences and adding to them, but doing so with more cohesion, as well as lending more of their own personality to the proceedings this time.

Raise The Torch is as reliably heavy as their previous albums, but experimentation and surprise are never too far away. None more so than on ‘Foreign Skies’, a clever combination of Soft Jazz, Prog, Black Metal and even NWOBHM, all washed down with a little splash of Gojira. Rarely does a song end up where you expect, the most straightforward cut probably being ‘Unearth’ which sounds like a nugget of purest Opeth, utilising more melody, groove and progression, but without losing any of their bite.

The band even show off their playful side with the opening riff to ‘Grasping The Torch’ which sounds like a sped up ‘Warriors of Genghis Khan’ by eighties comedy metal act Bad News. Then there’s the quite unforgettable ‘Scaling the Gods’, a seriously enjoyable and quirky track filled with upbeat, groove-filled riffs and a hand-clap section which owes more to ‘Gay Bar’ by Electric Six than anything from the Extreme Metal scene. Oh, and there’s a cowbell too. Death Metal simply has no right being this much fun.
Possessing a voice which combines guttural roars, mid-range barks, and bestial snarls, there’s always something interesting going on with singer/guitarist Alex Butler‘s vocals, even if on occasion he does sound more like a Black Metal version of Peter Frampton‘s Talkbox. He and second guitarist Nariman Poushin make a great partnership, and Dave Moulding is clearly a superb drummer, but it’s bassist Alan Webb who all too frequently steals the show.

A band with the knack of being able to sound both European and fiercely English, sometimes within the same riff, this extremely talented Reading based act continue their confident march to the forefront of the UK Extreme Metal scene.