UK metal band ASCARIS was formed back in 2012, and since then the threesome have honed their craft by live performances, an initial EP that came in 2014, before summarizing their creations and experiences into their first full length album “The Raised Hand”, a production that was self released at the start of the fall season in 2018.
Metal comes in a wide variety of guises of course, and in this case we are entering some of the more extreme realms of the genre. Blackened death metal is a description given by the band, which presumably will be a good pointer for those who are up to date on metal terminology. Personally I’m not all that well versed in these realms anymore, so I’ll have to stick with some descriptions.
The vocals is a big part of any band, and in this case they are gnarly and evil sounding croaks rather than growls, in a manner that reminds me ever so slightly of artists such as Dimmur Borgir. Vocals that by accident or plan comes across as flat but firm, with a dark distortion that brings in that feeling of something that is a bit beyond wicked – hence evil.
As for the compositions themselves, they tend to alternate between a few sets of core foundations. We have the intense alternating pace sections, with either drums or guitars slower in pace than the other, usually with a minimalist melody provided by the guitars. Then we have the all out riff and drum attacks, all instruments blazing at a hundred miles per hour. A third variety are pace-filled sections, often interludes or transitions, dominated by challenging technical instrument movements. A fourth are slower paced passages, often placed in the midsection or final third of a song, often with a more harmony-oriented arrangement and more of an atmospheric laden, dark melancholic feel to them.
Most of the songs alternate between these four main modes of operation, occasionally mixing bits and pieces from each of them together as well. Minimalist and subtle harmony overlays is something of a staple for this band, and in the more intense passages frantic instrument fluctuations comes into play as well.
Pace and intensity are key words for this album, and quite a few passages are verging on being almost too abrasive at that. But the mix and production focus in quite nice on the melodic aspects within the darkness and oppression, which makes this album a bit more than a mere dark, frantic and hectic extreme metal production. A bit refined, one might state.
That being said, Ascaris as they appear as of 2018 is a band that in my view will appeal mainly to existing fans of extreme metal. Those who tend to enjoy bands that blend black metal and death metal characteristics an obvious key audience, otherwise those fond of extreme metal that incorporate both technically challenging parts, abrasive tendencies and minimalist harmonies should probably give this album a spin.
My rating: 75/100