February 10, 2015 Thulcandra – Ascension Lost (Album Review)
Initially begun in 2003, Germany’s Thulcandra are a Melodic Black Metal outfit founded by guitarist/vocalist Steffen Kummerer and guitarist Jürgen Zintz. Recording their first demo titled Perishness Around Us in 2004, the suicide of Zintz in 2005 resulted in the music never seeing the light of day, thus seemingly bringing Thulcandra to a close. Taking the time to work on his Technical Death Metal project Obscura, Kummerer resurrected Thulcandra in 2008, releasing their debut album Fallen Angel’s Dominion in 2010 to much critical acclaim. Quickly following up with 2011’s Under a Frozen Sun, after a five year gap Thulcandra return with one of 2015’s most anticipated Black Metal records titled Ascension Lost. Joining Kummerer for the recording of the new album were brothers Sebastian Ludwig on guitar, Tobias Ludwig on bass, and drummer Seraph (Dark Fortress/Revamp).
Beginning the dark ceremony, “The First Rebellion” starts things off with a brief, melodic melody mixing electric and acoustic guitars and then rapid fire drums, before a speedy Thrash Metal riff take over. Immediately grabbing the audience’s attention, the riff is dense, relentless, and escalating. Creating an atmosphere ranging from insanely fast riffing to gentle acoustic sections with elongated electric guitar notes sprinkled on top, to swirling, Heavy Metal riffing reminiscent of early Metallica, it showcases the band’s versatility. “Throne of Will” features a riff that is a simple, propulsive lick that is strong without having to be played at supersonic speed. Laid over Black Metal warp-speed drums, this is an interesting blend of styles used by Thulcandra. As the song moves on, an airy solo with normally paced drums again shows that Thulcandra is much more than a one trick pony.
“Deliverance in Sin and Death” finds the band churning out a classic Black Metal speed riff, only this time the drums are not quite as fast, and Seraph only ramps up the beats per minute on the fills, while keeping time with a conventional beat, and even slowing it down for the middle part that features a medium paced riff with a choice solo played on top of it. The band manages to plug along in a repetitive manner but also keeps it fresh with well-placed changes and plenty of dynamics. In vain of Dissection, acoustic instrumental “Interlude” closes out the first half of Ascension Lost with classical and flamenco touches. This time of break is not seen often on modern Black Metal style records and is refreshing to hear an ode to the ambiance of the genre.
Opening the second half of the album in classic Black Metal fashion is “Exalted Resistance” with an absolutely punishing riff and blast beats that run through the whole song as Kummerer growls relentlessly. “The Second Fall” again finds the band spitting out a riff that blends the best of Motörhead and Metallica with a great blend of thunder and melody. What is most impressive is that Thulcandra not only steps out of the Black Metal comfort zone, they do it well. “Sorrow of One” and “Ascension Lost” again find the band ripping out powerful, prototypical Death Metal influenced jams. Featuring howling, intense vocals, supersonic drumming, as well as heavy, thick riffs with well-crafted soloing in which the space between the notes are as important and enjoyable as the multi-faceted onslaught. Thulcandra closes the album with “Outro,” a track similar to the middle of the album’s “Interlude” except with electric rather than acoustic guitar. It is the perfect ending to the album as it exemplifies the bands far reaching skills beyond speed and screaming.
Fans who like paint by numbers Black Metal, may not be into Ascension Lost. Thulcandra takes the listener across many soundscapes, using a multitude of styles. Those who like musicians who are not afraid to challenge convention, and unabashedly turn expectations upside down, this is a feast of inventive, unique, melodic Black/Death Metal. Instead of relying on pure speed and aggression throughout, they show their propensity for a “lighter” touch. Thulcandra is much more than blast beats and million notes per second guitar playing. They are a tight outfit with plenty of chops and Ascension Lost is a powerful collection of songs that was worth waiting for. CrypticRock gives Ascension Lost 4 out of 5 stars.