Reverence- The Asthenic Ascension

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Reverence’s The Asthenic Ascension came out in the US last September, so I’m a little late giving this album a listen but saw quite a few positive opinions on other sites and decided it was worth a go. The French black metal group has been around since 1998, but in recent years has taken on an industrial/experimental flair that has given them a fairly different sound. France has continued to produce what I consider to be some of the most interesting bands in the genre, but does Reverence has what it takes to stand out like many of their peers?

The Asthenic Ascension explores a lot of different elements stylistically while always maintaining the feel of black metal. Early on there are a number of melodic elements that remind me quite a bit of Blut Aus Nord, as the instrumentals move between fast blasting with a hint of melody and slower atmospheric sections in a way that is similar to that group. There are flourishes of industrial elements to the instrumentation that are present throughout much of the release, but this isn’t a full integration in the same fashion as what Aborym has been doing in recent years. Instead, there’s a slight electronic/industrial edge present that adds to the overall atmosphere and seems to be working more behind the scenes rather than standing out as a prominent element. What listeners will be paying the most attention to is the mix of fast dissonant chords and slower atmospheric sections, as these give the material the ability to stand out. Reverence is a bit more accessible compared to some of the others playing this type of black metal, but the emphasis on mid-tempo and slower sections where the atmosphere is extremely thick helps to further pull the listener in. The writing is quite strong, and even though the disc is forward stacked with three seven minute tracks in a row the instrumentalists are able to keep things interesting and the material never becomes stale or repetitive.

The vocal work pulls from harsh and clean pitches, and based on the information I was able to find it wasn’t quite clear if I. Luciferia was handling all of these himself or if there were some additional vocalists pitching in. Right from the beginning I was drawn in by the harsher pitches, as they start off at a mid-range and then seem to get lower and more intense as the material progresses. “Darwin’s Black Hall” is one of the best examples of this, as Luciferia’s pitch begins as a fairly low pitched scream and about a quarter of the way in heads into an earth shaking growl. When it came to the cleaner singing though, this was an area that I wasn’t quite as crazy about. There were multiple variations of this, but in particular the higher cleans on “Cold Room” and a few other tracks came off feeling a bit awkward and lacked the same level of energy as the others. Thankfully this style wasn’t prevalent enough to stand out as a major complaint, but I did come off feeling that this was an area that could still use a bit more development if Reverence wants to continue and incorporate it.

Despite my slight issue with some of the clean singing, I can see why The Asthenic Ascension was so well regarded upon its release last year. Reverence has elements that remind me quite a bit of Blut Aus Nord, but they manage to head off in their own direction and don’t feel like they’re merely retreading the same ground. It’s a little less chaotic than some of the other black metal out there, instead opting for a more nuanced type of chilling atmosphere that sneaks up on you and then completely overpowers you, and for me that’s one of the main reasons that this album is worth returning to.

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