I am ashamed. Why? Because I almost let this badass record slip through my greedy clutches. You see, my good friend (who we know as Septic ’round these parts) randomly pops in now and again to apprise me on some of his choice metallic discoveries. He introduced Irish/German/Dutch quartet Ascend the Hollow to me and I was instantly hooked. Like, so fast my head spun. I needed to share my excitement for Echoes of Existence with as many people as possible, but how? It would’ve been grand if we received promo, I thought. Then, all of a sudden I received a virtual sucker punch while rooting around the bin—the thing’s been sitting there since the end of April! How in the actual heck did I miss that??? And lo I experienced great embarrassment. I nearly neglected one of the coolest new bands to materialize out of absolute nowhere this year.
Part of what makes Ascend the Hollow awesome is the shock value revealing their wide array of influences holds. Are you ready for this? Of course not! Making sure you are all far away from valuables or hard-to-clean surfaces lest your collective heads explode all over them, imagine “progressive cyber tech metal”—as the band calls it—splicing portions of DNA from the following sources: Nemesea, Karkaos, Excision, Silence Lies Fear, Project Hate MCMXCIX, In This Moment, Lacuna Coil, Mechina, Celldweller, Nightmarer, Author & Punisher, Gomorrah, Cerebral Bore, Venom Prison. Little traces of these bands frolic among tech-y riffs, unpredictable songwriting, electronic shenanigannery, programmed drums and all manner of vocal techniques on this debut maelstrom, yet Ascend the Hollow smelt everything into a sound all their own.
Ascend the Hollow‘s greatest feat on Echoes of Existence is their exploration across every square micrometer of their sound, saturating songs with immediate hooks (“Vessels,” “Sea of Crises,” “Swarms Within”) while also embedding interesting details that only make it to the auditory processing centers after repeated listens (“Mother of Morality,” “Prisoners of the Storm,” “Repent Rewind Reset”). Moreover, each additional layer is so meticulously integrated that not once did I question whether the band went too far or not far enough. As a result I thoroughly abuse that replay button every time the ominous instrumental closer “C3lls” wraps up.
The band members themselves are also quite talented. Though the drums are obviously fake, guitarists/programmers RAVEN1 and GEF2 do a wonderful job imparting a mechanized personality to each piece of the “kit” without reducing them to flimsy playthings. Their flair for riffcraft and leadwork is satisfying as well, demonstrating an advanced understanding of subgenres ranging from deathcore and brutal death metal (“Vessels”) to prog (“Mother of Morality”) to black metal (“This Dark Rage”). Bassist DAVEC also contributes massive crunch to the low end to further intensify the band’s industrial style, though the guitars occasionally bury him more than they ought. Last but certainly not least, M-NOISE is an incredible frontwoman taking the ever-popular two-pronged harsh/clean approach. Her growls exhibit body and range and her cleans are a dead ringer for Cristina Scabbia, but less Italian.
Echoes of Existence‘s spirit is nothing to sneeze at, either. Dealing with subjects like severe mental illness (“Polaris Calling” and “Prisoners of the Storm”), rape and underage sexual abuse (“This Dark Rage”), abortion (“Vessels”), what have you, Ascend the Hollow aren’t afraid of their message or their target in the slightest. Echoes of Existence represents a blunt, unfiltered confrontation of every dark corner of our modern society, even if a couple of the covered topics might be difficult for some to respect—”Sea of Crises,” for example, is based on “lunar lunacy,” a cultural phenomenon documenting greater preponderance of suicides/homicides/weirdness during a full moon.
This album is not perfect, of course. The mix is claustrophobic, though not terminally so. Some of the lyrics lack nuance such that they lose their cutting edge, and there is a modicum of bloat on the third and ninth tracks which briefly hinders the record’s momentum. Perhaps I should also consider that I wanted to like this from the beginning, which may be inflating my positive reaction. Yet, I can’t ignore how effortlessly Echoes of Existence assimilated me with adventurous songcraft and devastating charm. Resistance is futile.