Thursday, February 19, 2015

Thulcandra - Ascension Lost

Germany's Thulcandra have become one of my favorite bands. They began as sort of a Dissection worship band, but with enough of their own identity to stand out among their peers. They recorded an unreleased demo in 2005 but with the untimely suicide of original member Jurgen Zintz, the demo was never released and the band went on hold until 2008 when founding member Steffen Kummerer listened to the demo and decided to begin again. Their brand of blackened melodic death metal has a really nice atmosphere with excellent musicianship and plenty of hooks. They've actually put Germany on the map of a sub-genre of metal that consisted mostly of Swedish bands.

Fast forward to 2015 and we see the release of their third full length album, Ascension Lost. And it is with this album that, I believe, the band has realized their full potential to become a true contender in the metal world. Aggression mixed with melody, atmosphere, and the ability to write great songs, this album is slowly becoming one of my favorites of this little sub-genre and will, no doubt, be considered a classic one day. With the melodic guitars setting the atmosphere of the album opener, "The First Rebellion" you get the idea of what this album is going to sound like. The riffing is in full swing with thrashy power chord riffing mixed with some melodic tremolos, this song is the band showing one of the elements that has always made them great, their epic side. The vocals sound a bit like Ihsahn's early style, though they remain consistent and never become overbearing or annoying. There are a lot of elements to the song adding to the overall atmosphere. In contrast, the follow up song, "Throne of Will," is a straight up mid-paced blackened melo-death number that doesn't bring anything new to the table but is just an enjoyable song. The solo is killer and the contrast between the chords and tremolo riffing makes this a great song even if it doesn't display the epic side of the band.

Some songs do stand out as the opener did. After a short interlude, "Exalted Resistance" just slays with monstrous tremolos and an atmosphere of sheer cold and darkness. Dare I use the cliche grim and frostbitten? Yeah, it's like that. In just a little over four minutes, this track manages to show the band's strengths without having to pull the epic card or create many layers. At the same time, this song, when combined with the rest of the album, instantly makes this an album that is one that needs to be consumed whole. I'm the type who always listens to albums as a whole and I enjoy albums that are coherent and flow from one song to another, even if the songs contrast in style. "The Second Fall" comes right in after "Exalted Resistance" and is different in style without interrupting the flow of the album. To me, that's impressive. It's more mid-paced and straight ahead with a nice atmospheric part in the middle with a great melodic solo. The title track is another song with many layers and dimensions but with the same atmosphere as the rest of the album. This is another song that borders on epic with killer tremolos providing melody and atmosphere while not sacrificing the aggression. This is the last proper song on the album as the closer is a short instrumental so this is truly a great way to close out a truly amazing and coherent album. But the end is only the beginning.....

....because the real treat here is that the album contains, as bonus tracks, the original unreleased demo from ten years prior. Not only are these great songs but it also shows how much this band has truly grown to become the band they are now. "Perishness Around Us" could actually be a blackened death/thrash song. It actually has a bit more in common with thrash with the crunchy riffing and contrast between speedy and mid-paced tempo. The vocals are bit lower and a little more guttural than they are now and actually fit the music perfectly. Even then they were still able to add melody and atmosphere into their music keeping it from being one dimensional. There's actually not as much Dissection worship here making one wonder why they didn't stay with this sound. I actually like what they became but enjoy hearing how they truly started. "Frozen Kingdom" and "Immortality" lean more to a melodic death metal with a little black metal influence. The Dissection influence does rear it's head in places with these two songs but they are mainly melo-death but with more atmosphere than what one is used to hearing in the genre.

At the end of the day, this is one thoroughly enjoyable album that truly shows how far this band has come. It shows their original sound as well as their refined, more atmospheric sound of the new album. One thing is for sure, this is a band that keeps on surprising me and exceeding expectations each time they release an album. If they keep going in this direction, they will be a force to be reckoned with.


No comments: