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Reviews CD Reviews Alternative, Indie Rock Ascension of the Watchers- Numinosum


ARTIST: Ascension of the Watchers
ALBUM: Numinosum
LABEL: 13th Planet Records
REVIEWER: Matthew J.
DATE: 6-4-08

Ascension of the Watchers- Numinosum

Drawing on both the thematically dense and musically complex albums of the progressive rock movement and the bleak atmospheres of groups like Swans and Lycia, Ascension of the Watchers' first full-length album is difficult to categorize. It is safe to say, however, that this album sounds nothing like band founder Burton C. Bell's previous work in legendary industrial metal group Fear Factory. Instead of rapid-fire sequences and machine gun guitar riffs, you have the soft acoustic strums and echoing whispers of "Ascendant," and instead of blast beats, the slow reverberating percussion and vocal harmonies of "Mars Becoming." Apart from its introduction of sampled wolf howls, "Canon for My Beloved" is downright ethereal, dreamy and brooding like some manly equivalent of Mazzy Star, and "Like Falling Snow" combines tranquil, slightly psychedelic vocal effects with piano, strings, and trip-hop rhythm. If its tempo is less than thrashing, that in no way diminishes its intensity, and Bell's raw-throated pleas to an absent deity on the culmination of "Evading" achieve new heights of emotional depth while still retaining the heaviness of spirit that has marked his previous work. Likewise, "Residual Presence" reveals an entirely different sort of bleakness than Fear Factory's visions of cyborg apocalypse, but it's all the more intense for its deeply personal nature. While this album draws on such intellectually dense topics as the Book of Enoch, a knowledge of the Dead Sea Scrolls, though perhaps helpful, is not a requirement to enjoy the music itself, and in any case, Bell doesn't use his fascination with ancient Hebrew prophecies to create a concept album in the traditional sense so much as he uses it as a springboard to delve into his own dark night of the soul, so to speak. The details are less important than the emotions behind them, and a magnificent if completely unexpected cover of Simon and Garfunkel's "Sound of Silence" cements that point. The mere existence of that cover song may be enough to put off a percentage of Fear Factory fans, but this album is deep dark majestic stuff, highly recommended if you like the hypnotic gloom of latter-day Swans, the complexity of A Perfect Circle, or the bleak otherworldliness of Lycia.

Ascend into the numinous at www.thewatchers.org.


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