Thulcandra – Ascension Lost (Napalm)

Sunday, 1st February 2015
Rating: 8/10

Known for varied power and traditional metal exports, Germany is often not thought of when it comes to black metal, but it’s where Thulcandra calls home. The melodic black metal outfit hails from Munich and has consistently released well produced aggressive black metal records pleasing to the ear. Latest offering, Ascension Lost, is no different.

Weaving intricate melodic guitar passages around icy, buzz-saw riffs (think mid-period Gorgoroth when Ghaal and King ov Hell were at the helm) and thunderous blast-beat drumming, courtesy of newcomer Erebor (Secrets of the Moon), Thulcandra has created another catchy but intense record. There’s a progressive edge to Ascension Lost, found mostly in the snaking guitar melodies and slower solo sections, where deliberate, well placed notes are the standard rather than frenetic technical wizardry. Most songs start with a fast guitar attack and blasting drums, then the frenzy often dies down halfway through, leaving acoustic guitar strings to give your eardrums a respite before once again launching head-on into full force riffing and blasting. This is especially apparent on “Deliverance in Sin and Death” and opening number “The First Rebellion,” which features an Immortal-esque main riff.

Steffen Kummerer (Obscura, Death (DTA)), vocalist, lead guitarist and sole founding member, has a knack for writing fast, biting riffs while injecting intricate melodic guitar passages that result in catchy, memorable melodies. His raspy vocal growl is reminiscent of Ihsahn (minus the high-pitched shrieks). Swedish blackened death metal masters Dissection were an early influence on the band and that influence is still present, such as on “Sorrow of the One,” with fast buzz-saw guitars juxtaposed against slower darkened melancholic passages. Whether delivering a rapid fire burst of blast beats or laying down a slower, steadier beat, Erebor’s drums drive the songs and sound massive, as if recorded deep in the mines of Moria.

Although progressive elements can be found within Thulcandra’s sound, there isn’t a lot of progression from album to album. The band chooses to stick to a tried and true formula of crafting memorable, aggressive songs drenched in sorrow and melancholy. Ascension Lost may put Germany on the black metal map yet.

Thulcandra official website