Ascended Dead – Evenfall of the Apocalypse (20 Buck Spin)

Monday, 15th May 2023
Rating: 7.5 / 10

Death metal is a genre with many faces, certainly being a major reason of why it’s so attractive. When it comes to the heavier variety, this scribe prefers a hefty bite, big memorable riffs, and a large dose of filthy grime. Ascended Dead ticked all of those boxes with their debut full-length Abhorrent Manifestation back in 2017, and many agreed, with that release putting the San Diego, California natives on the map. A pair of split releases followed, all leading up to their sophomore effort Evenfall of the Apocalypse.

To say that Ascended Dead have upped the level of discordance with album number two is a statement that can’t be refuted. Straight away, the guitars twist and turn in all sorts of odd time signatures and go down unexpected avenues. “Abhorrent Manifestation” is a cacophony of chaos, not giving the listener a whole lot of room to breathe with unabated fretboard madness. The opening riff of “Ungodly Death” is an acute smash to the cranium, setting up a frenetic charge to the finish with blinding bits of technicality and pace changes, with this theme continuing through “Nexus of the Black Flame.”

Jon Reider’s gravely vocal bellows are particularly effective on “Tantrum Bellum,” trading off nicely with dizzying guitar leads and quick-fire solos of Reider and Ian Lawrence. A still fast, but somewhat more pronounced sense of urgency is present on “Inverted Ascension,” proving to be one of the more well laid out entries. On the other end of the spectrum, tracks like “The Curse / Enveloped in Thorns” is an unbridled sprint, slowed briefly by a thumping drum solo, then otherwise careening through everything in its path. A surprising, but welcomed, cavernous interlude in “Passage to Eternity” showcases ominous acoustic guitars that give a slow build, finally being overtaken by distorted rhythms. This provides a lead into the title track, which is the longest song at around six-and-a-half minutes. Still containing the frantic guitar work that is thematic to the rest of the album, this piece is more articulate structurally, allowing for a natural flow with some mid-paced sections that serve ever so well.

Therein lies the rub with Evenfall of the Apocalypse – how much chaos is too much? This ironically compares to that of VoidCeremony (two members of Ascended Dead are ex members) and their latest in that regard, though Ascended Dead don’t go as far down the road to disjointment. Thankfully, there are a number of creative and stinging riffs that ultimately stick the landing without blasting into total randomness, though there are a few points where this does indeed occur.

Chaotic death metal is Ascended Dead’s bag, and they do so judiciously. The production is gritty and direct, aligning with the band’s songwriting style, resulting in an uncompromising sonic attack from pillar to post. At times, the album can be the too tech death for its own good, getting somewhat erratic and ultimately losing a modicum of focus. The band do reign it in before getting out of control, however, with songs like “Inverted Ascension” and the headliner of a title track being top examples of what Ascended Dead are capable of. Evenfall of the Apocalypse is a mostly gratifying experience of tumultuous pull no punches death metal, and many no doubt will enjoy the anarchic drubbing provided.

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