EP Review: Ascendency – A Manifest of Imperious Destiny
Reviewed by Sam Jones
Now for something a little different. Ascendency are a death/black metal band out of Copenhagen, Denmark, having formed only a few years ago. In that short time, the band have as of yet released no studio works, yet through the release of 2020’s Birth Of An Eternal Empire EP and this 2023 EP follow-up, A Manifest Of Imperious Destiny, perhaps we could see a full length release sometime in the near future. Having been previously signed on to Dark Descent Records so early into their career, the band only continue their fortune through their foray into Me Saco Un Ono Records whom this upcoming EP will be releasing through. Let’s take a peek at what Ascendency are made of.
You have to hand it to Ascendency, for the band may play black metal but, it’s not like their guitar work is muddied nor has it been buried within the mix. I appreciate how the sharp riffs have been refined in such a way that the band can play with a rougher aesthetic and yet their songwriting can still shine through, showing us where they’re taking us at any moment. The riffs ooze this blackened appeal yet it’s good to note the band still wanted us to understand what is going on, hence why the mix sports some aspect of clarity. This is no clean performance by any means for Ascendency are looking to craft metal in the veins of early black metal so that soundscape is absolutely vital to them. But, in this day and age, where mixing technology has come leaps and bounds, an album or EP’s aesthetic is crafted purely by choice, and so Ascendency create songwriting that’s simultaneously searing yet signposted. The band seldom let their foot off the accelerator yet, there are enough markings throughout this piece to show us where we’re going next.
If we’re talking about aesthetics, the vocals match the songwriting gloriously. It’s curious to note how crisp and well-positioned the vocals feel within the mix as they manage to burst forth with great power all the while emanating a stabbing impact as they effortlessly rise above the instrumentation. There’s no conflict between vocals or instrumentation which is great to observe, for it helps to merge the two forces together much more seamlessly than even the earliest examples of premier black metal. In addition, it’s worth noting how riffs and vocals alike sport a resonance throughout their performance that enables them to keep going into the distance even as the next riff chord or vocal note is coming into play. It demonstrates how there’s a great deal of room amongst this EP that the band choose not to occupy, thereby allowing their sound to travel further, creating a grander and more ethereal presence. The band’s performance may initially feel like something out of the 90s but there’s a hidden element weaving it’s way underneath the record.
It’s interesting that, while this is only an EP, Ascendency didn’t let the smaller output of material bar them from crafting songs that were a little longer than your typical blackened affair. Granted, we’ve only got four songs to work with herein yet the band still devote good swathes of time towards making these feel not only grand and otherworldly in nature, but extremely immersive too. This style of old school black metal isn’t usually my jam, but I admit I found myself bouncing along and enjoying myself thoroughly, I think, because the band were willing to pour additional time into their songwriting to flesh out tracks and give them a greater sense of weight and importance amongst this EP. With tracks between six to ten minutes long it’s nice to acknowledge a band still willing to pour as much passion and effort into a smaller release than they would any conventional studio release. We’re able to become lost within their sound yet, thanks to the mix and songwriting, we’re shown the way early on as to how best to receive Ascendency’s work.
In conclusion, Ascendency craft an EP that’s volatile in its power yet still manages to contain its ferocity through songwriting that equally boasts the band’s might and directs us easily from one sequence to the next. At nearly half an hour long, the band offer us plenty to get our teeth into and with only four tracks to utilise here nonetheless. As mentioned prior, the longer tracks enable us to sink deeper into their aesthetic, immersing us within their soundscape that may seem vicious at first, and is throughout this EP’s duration, the band’s performance slowly gives way from violence alone and showcases their ability to craft ethereal pieces of songwriting that elevate this above a rudimentary rank and file of early-worshipping black metal. While this is not what I would typically choose to listen to, I did enjoy my time here and I’m interested to see where Ascendency next go.