Chicago’s deathcore icons released their fourth studio album titled ‘Ascendants’ via Earache Records on March 23rd and this naturally caused quite a buzz in the deathcore community. My first impression of this record was a bipolar one. On one hand, I had fun listening to this record and on the other, I expected more out of it. But what I did appreciate, when compared with other deathcore music, is the good songwriting. The song structures are great and that’s what matters. As songwriters they have done a good job and no part sounds like it shouldn’t belong there. Transitions, drops, blasts are all aptly placed. Kudos to guitarists Michael Casper and Scott Smith, for whom this album is their debut with the band. ‘Ascendants’ is straight up heavy, no unnecessary build ups, no frills, no nothing. They done bring the heavy. Lyrically, the album is a step up from their usual habit of painting pictures of violence, torture and disease. In 2015, the band’s talking about extra-terrestrials, our interaction with them and the direction the human race is headed in. But then what band isn’t talking about aliens these days?
‘Ascendants’ begins with the intro track “Nephilim” which does a good job of setting the general vibe of the album – a dark and eerie atmosphere created by the clean guitars followed by a heavy and furious section, topped off by a breakdown. The breakdown in this song is a literal one. The first real song is “Transient Gateways” which is one of the better songs on whole the album. It is what a good deathcore song is; blast beats, hectic riffs, menacing vocals and of course the half-time breakdowns. Next comes “The World Engine”, easily my favourite song on the album, that breakdown at the 1:50 minute mark is simply great. This is what I love most about deathcore, you get your quick fix of brutality and breakdowns. The album progresses further in a somewhat similar vein but unfortunately loses it sheen quickly with lesser noticeable songs like “The Taken”, “Dawn of Descent” and “The Dulce Incident” which, sadly, are consecutive songs. This makes the album sound stale and extremely repetitive. I had to look up which song was playing, barring songs like “The World Engine” and “Dead Planet” that have recognizable parts. The album closer, “External Existence” is great but a clichéd one, especially with that stereotypical stutter-breakdown outro. Also, the attempt at the clean guitar atmospheres weren’t as ominous as I would have liked them to be.
So there you go, in 28 minutes ‘Ascendants’ is over, leaving me satiated yet hungry for more. Would I revisit this album later in the year? I don’t know. Did I have fun listening to this record? Definitely.