High-end fashion, espresso machines, ice cream cones, pizza and Graveworm: these are just a few of life’s simple pleasures we have courtesy of the Italians. As jumbled as that list reads, it gives you a small glimpse into my weird metal journey, I didn’t take the most direct route through any first waves, I didn’t start at the beginning of anything, I followed my crazy heart, grabbing whatever took my fancy and it led me to some strange and interesting places. Agathodaimon‘s Blacken the Angel and Naglfar‘s Sheol were my introduction to symphonic and melodic black metal, soon followed by Illnath‘s Second Skin of Harlequin. These prompted me to check out Graveworm‘s Engraved in Black, where I fell head over heels for the band’s shrieky melodicism and gothic symphonics. Undeterred by Graveworm‘s penchant for cheesy pop remakes (“It’s a Sin,” “Losing My Religion” and more recently Bon Jovi‘s “Runaway”), I followed the band though their upswing in (N)Utopia and down through the mediocrity of Diabolical Figures and Fragments of Death. Not having heard anymore from the Graveworm camp after their 2011 release, you can hardly blame me for assuming the band had realized their obsolescence. Imagine my surprise at getting promo from AFM Records for Ascending Hate. I had to hear it, it was that simple.
Early on in Ascending Hate, you’ll realize it’s a continuation of Graveworm‘s foray into melodic death and metalcore first heard on Fragments of Death. “The Death Heritage” starts off with a smooth but lengthy Marras era October Falls intro before picking up the grinding density of a blend of Naglfar and Agathodaimon. The drum-work pounds at you with intensity akin to that of Fleshgod Apocalypse, the symphonic vein is very subtle and the vocals bounce between death grunts, blackened shrieks and an over the top growl that brings to mind Hurja of Shade Empire.
The remaining tracks all have moments that hark back to the albums I loved by Agathodaimon, Naglfar and Illnath, and maybe if Graveworm had stopped there, Ascending Hate might have been more successful. Unfortunately they didn’t, instead trying to build this pizza with so many toppings it’s a veritable taste implosion. “Buried Alive” and “Downfall of Heaven” both have guitar melodies that carry the burden of My Dying Bride. “Blood Torture Death,” “To the Empire of Madness” and “Stillborn” are awash with the etherial melodies of Omnium Gatherum and then, as if you’re in need of a little more sadness, strains of Lifelover make an appearance. Were this a name dropping session, I’d need to make mention of Amon Amarth‘s fierceness that rears up in “Blood Torture Death” or even the modern In Flames abruptness of “Liars to the Lions,” the list goes on and on. The only thing missing is some good old-fashioned…Graveworm.
Graveworm made another grave error in excess. Not only does each track suffer serious bloat, but Ascending Hate runs a lengthy 54-minutes across ten tracks. By “Rise Again,” your interest has in fact fallen again, and with the final tracks just floundering around not really offering anything particularly gripping, the temptation to move proves too hard to resist.
This review plagued me. Founding member and former main songwriter Stefan Unterpertinger returned to the band and in theory Ascending Hate pulls together many enjoyable influences. How is it then that the album comes across as unimpressive? Eventually I had to come to the conclusion that just because you enjoy a delicious bacon and feta pizza or sunny-side-up eggs and bacon as separate meals, doesn’t mean you’d love them all together. I guess there really is something to the witticism “less is more.” Ascending Hate is not drastically different from Fragments of Death and if you enjoyed that offering and you’re looking for competently played melodeath with vague traces of their symphonic black metal roots, maybe this album’s for you.