GURTHANG – Ascension
The blackened doom metal horde using the Tolkien-derived moniker Gurthang, which hails from Poland, has been quite productive ever since the band’s inception back in 2010 as “Ascension” is the sixth full-length vortex so far. I used the phrase blackened doom metal just before, but perhaps it would be more fair to say that it is as much a black metal outfit as it is doom metal; they have simply merged the two genres and evoked something most foul and loathsome from the worst corners of the underworld (or the human mind, if you will).
There are some interesting dichotomies and contrasts in play on “Ascension” with respect to both the sound of the record and the melodies and moods that course through it. At times it comes across as warm and appealing only to morph into something bone-chillingly cold and ugly, and then there are also times where everything is very controlled and disciplined, but then two minutes later it sounds as if everything is close to collapsing (the majestic album opener “In Void Again” is a good example of this). I also dig the way in which the melodies slither and slide between the instantly catchy and the deafeningly dissonant. The vocals vary wildly and function as an instrument in itself here, which is good. Most importantly, the album is an absorbing listen that is well constructed, there is a great flow and drive to it, and finally, it paints a vivid and powerful portrait of inner darkness both musically and lyrically.
“Ascension” does require a bit of time and patience on the part of the listener as there are a solid number of nuances, textures, and unexpected turns to get one’s head around, but it is well worth devoting some time to the task of penetrating its many layers. Sometimes it is as pitch black and unholy as certain French orthodox black metal entities are while at other times it veers off into a totally different territory where either the (funeral) doom elements or dark ambient touches are much more pronounced and dominant. This is definitely one of those releases that I will keep returning to in the months to come. I would not go so far as to say that “Ascension” is groundbreaking or totally flawless as there are a few meandering sections here and there, but it will undoubtedly leave you somewhere terrible and ruin your day completely. Is that not what you want and desire whenever you feel like losing yourself in a truly sombre record? Favorite cuts: “In Void Again” and “Solace”.