Ascian – Elysion Review

Slow and steady wins the race, or so they say. Metal isn’t exactly well known for “slow and steady,” though, except in the case of doom metal. And doom death, and blackened doom, and sludge metal, and stoner metal, and and and… okay I guess sometimes metal is well known for the slow and steady approach. Hell, one of my favorite metal entities is named Slow. It’s no secret that any mention of slow bands like Slow or Convocation or Eye of Solitude instantly garners my immediate attention. Enter Germany’s Ascian, a new act peddling depressive doom death metal on their debut record Elysion, which Slow’s very own Déhà mixed, mastered and (supposedly) guests on. Predictably, I fought tooth and nail for the opportunity to review such wares. Were they worth the effort?

Self-described as a happy medium between My Dying Bride and Alcest, Ascian bring on the gloom by way of gargantuan riffs summoned at a glacial pace by guitarists P. and T. There be no fluff whatsoever across the remarkably tight thirty-eight minutes that span this album. The mission statement of Elysion is plain as day: to crush all who venture in this overcast wasteland until nothing remains but a faint wisp of soul dust. Acting as a vehicle for the dour spirit that moves the record along its funereal passage, vocalists S. and P. (the very same P. mentioned exactly three sentences ago) pass the baton between deep gravelly roars, serrated screams and a distraught croon, all excellent in technique and emotional expression. Drummer A. supplies the tectonic motivation required to deliver Ascian’s hefty payload, keeping things simple and direct. The end result of these elements combined is a record that gives off the same professional impression that I sooner expect from bands with twenty years under their belt, let alone two.

While not quite funeral in tempo, opener “Misery Seeds” nonetheless sows many a seed of misery. A brief spoken word intro ushers in a big Usurpress riff, deftly shifting into a weeping secondary movement of deep croons, then again shifting into a third passage built upon meaty Vainajan musculature, finally reprising the chorus and transforming into a blackened trail of desperation. The structure behind these movements is rock-solid and logical, which allows the dynamism of the song to shine through while simultaneously inspiring great confidence that what follows absolutely slays. Slay it does, with “Dead Will Carry the Dead” intensifying the aggression through a smoky veil of post-black atmosphere ablaze. In fact, each of the four main songs make every second of their runtimes count. Repetition functions as a tool, never a crutch (“Elysion”). Soft detours gently lay down corpses even as monstrous doom ravages new paths for the defeated souls that follow to witness its carnage (closing combo “Shroud” and “Colder”). Déhà’s masterful production further benefits Elysion by infusing his trademark reverb into the less aggressive stages, yet he allowed space for depth and clarity, making returns just that much more rewarding as new details surface with each subsequent spin.

As my time with Elysion progressed, so did the difficulty I experienced with determining what I disliked about the record. After a time I decided that Ascian created a pretty much flawless debut in every way that matters to me. However, I want more of it. Thirty-eight minutes of righteous, crippling death doom is a mighty fine product, but every time I spin it a part of me wishes it was forty-seven minutes of righteous, crippling death doom. My desire for more material typically represents that I received the perfect quantity to justify repeat listens, but in this instance it gives me a distinct impression that I missed something. As well as Elysion flows from beginning to end, I feel assured that its framework is more than strong enough to support another slab of soulless brimstone.

For those who want something with heart but without forgiveness, I highly recommend Ascian. The band crafted Elysion knowing exactly its purpose and pursued that end through efficient and effective means. The riffs shatter bone, the melodies infect the folds, the atmosphere chokes the lungs, and the production engages the senses. Each minute is worth the price of admission, and, for once, I expect most to find themselves pining for another round.

Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: MDD/Black Sunset Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: October 2nd, 2020

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