Switzerland metalcore quintet, Ascends, started under the name I, The Deceiver but changed it to their current moniker in 2015 with the arrival of Marco Romero on vocals. Like many bands using the eight-string guitars and absurd tunings at the bottom of the sound range, they take inspiration from Meshuggah and Periphery and infuse them with the progressive metalcore of Erra. You’ve heard it a thousand times over the last decade, but there’s still a few bands out there that can hold your attention. Lost in Gravity has its moments of high drama and does the job of giving you permanent lockjaw, but it brings little new to a saturated genre.
You know this record will rely on the drop-tuned guitars for heavy impact and melodious vocals for the choruses, and Ascends deliver both in opener, ‘Lightrays’. Your ears will twitch at the muscle of the palm-muted down-picking, especially at the climactic breakdown as you breathe in and feel the oxygen sucked out of your lungs. When Ascends charge at you, they do it with murderous eyes and throbbing fists. ‘Space Drifted’ is the clear standout song and can be a lesson to all those bands going through their nu metal playlists for inspiration to remember the full potential of the seven and eight-string axes strapped to their shoulders. Here, the guitarists waste no time in digging into the bottom strings of their instruments as if holding something heavier than their total body weight. Is this groove metal, djent or metalcore? The dissonant outro riff offers a dystopian sci-fi vibe Fear Factory would love to own if they produced another record.
The flaws of this album are not excessive, but the reliance on Monuments for the riffs and the predictability of the choruses leave you wondering what they can do to surprise you. ‘Fraxured’ is a rare moment when the backing vocal harmonies add a contemplative quiver to the chorus and force an appreciative nod of the head. Danish metalcore band, Ghost Iris, would sound like this if they embraced a Meshuggah direction on their next LP. Most songs are too short to qualify as prog metal, but ‘Erased’ is an exception, with its bizarre decision to squander the momentum of the opening verse in favour of a post-rock fracture. It might not be original, but the suspense synth and ripping djent bombs of ‘Bioshock’ give you what you want – controlled chaos that threatens to rebound in your face like a thwarted grenade. The syncopated bullet riffs in the middle eight will leave you paralysed in your chair.
Thirty minutes of drop-tuned guitars and youthful screams make for an easy listen, but Ascends miss an opportunity here to broaden their ideas and challenge your expectations. Closing track, ‘Rough World’, is admirable for ending on a brutal note and utilising a second guitar channel of mid-range tremolo patterns, but the attempt to add a poignant chorus falls flat under the fragile harmonies of the backing vocalists.
We said few bands can hold your attention playing music in this style, and Ascends will need to do better on their next outing to convince you they can stand out from the herd.
Release Date: 28/10/2022
Record Label: Self Released
Standout tracks: Space Drifted, Fraxured, Bioshock
Suggested Further Listening: Monuments – Gnosis (2012), Ghost Iris – Comatose (2021), Joshua Travis – No Rest EP (2022)