Ichor – Hadal Ascending

Advancing the concept the band began on their 2010 album Benthic Horizon (Bastardized Recordings), German Death Metallers and HP Lovecraft enthusiasts Ichor return with their fourth full-length release, Hadal Ascending (Unholy Conspiracy/Wooargh) to continue the story of a devastated deep-sea world occupied by mystical beings and lurking sub-aquatic horrors.

Apparently, after reaching the Hadal Zone (the deepest region of the sea lying within oceanic trenches), some human warrior types become engaged in battle against gorgons and other such nasty undersea creatures until a demon called “Zaan” is summoned and promptly munches them to death. Then, after opening a portal, Zaan leads his sea-dwelling minions to an empire among the stars…

Combining these Doug McClure type shenanigans with Death and Black Metal-inspired melancholia, Ichor use simple but effective riffs and savage bursts of speed to tell their aquapocalyptic (no, that isn’t a word, but it should be) story.

‘Paradise Or Perdition’ possesses a chuggy, lugubrious opening before things pick up speed with blastbeats, slashing Black Metal rhythms, and a wounderfully mournful guitar solo, while ‘Tales From the Depths’ drips with slimy, blackened seaweed and ends like a sinking ship slipping slowly beneath the waves forever.

‘Black Incantation’, ‘The March’, ‘Architect of the Portal’, and the quite excellent ‘Black Dragons’ all feature chunky mid-paced and fast rhythms, ‘A Glowing in the Dark’ uses sinister sounding chants, and ‘In Ecstasy’ employs some interesting time signatures, while the absolutely non-Black Sabbath ‘Children of the Sea’ and superb closer ‘Conquering the Stars’ feature otherworldly vocal effects, most notably the latter of the two. In fact, vocalist Eric Kuhnen excels throughout the record, with guttural vocals so low they churn black silt from the ocean floor one moment, and screech into the heavens the next.

While Ichor’s tales of sea-related carnage may not be quite as complex or challenging as the likes of other Lovecraft influenced acts such as The Great Old Ones or Sulphur Aeon, and even if their chunky mid-paced riffs can seem a little interchangeable in places, the more simplistic approach still works, and contributes to making Hadal Ascending arguably their best release to date.

7 / 10

GARY ALCOCK