Album Review – The Wandering Ascetic / Crimson (2019)

Drawing influences from the Hellenic Black Metal scene, here comes a Singaporean squad armed with their brand new album of dissonant and hypnotic sounds.

Formed in 2011 in Singapore by Kathir, vocalist and bassist for Rudra, an iconic Death and Black Metal act from the local scene, The Wandering Ascetic are making a name for themselves in the underground of heavy music by blasting a more exemplary black and thrash sonority without the Indian classical instruments seen in the music by Rudra, but still retaining their trademark spiritual fervor. Accompanied by guitarist Vinod (also from Rudra), bassist Jayakumar and drummer Kannan K, Kathir and his The Wandering Ascetic draw their influences from the Hellenic Black Metal scene (as well as obviously from Rudra), generating dissonant, hypnotic sound s infused with crushing riffs and grooves, elevating their music and art to a whole different level.

After the release of their debut EP titled Manifest Destiny, in 2013, it’s time for The Wandering Ascetic to smash our senses once again with their first full-length opus, the excellent Crimson, featuring a life-transforming artwork by Mark Riddick (Fetid Zombie) and layout by Turkka Rantanen (Demilich, Demigod). Comprised of 10 unrelenting songs ranging from pure old school Black Metal to modern-day Southern Rock and Groove Metal, Crimson is a solid and very entertaining statement by The Wandering Ascetic in a scene that seems stagnant at times, showing how powerful Singaporean metal can be and, as a consequence, opening several doors in the international market for the band.

Vinod begins his slashing attack accompanied by Jayakumar’s thunderous bass in Eva Braun, with Kathir roaring demonically for our total delight in a Black and Death Metal attack spiced up by hints of Progressive Metal, flowing darkly until its eerie end; then the tribal beats by Kannan K ignite another obscure composition named I Sing the Body Electric, showcasing an obscure rhythm inspired by old school Black and Doom Metal tailored for fans of the genre where the guitar lines by Vinod sound as flammable as they can be. Bringing elements form the music by Gojira, Mastodon and Tool we have the beautifully titled The Exorcism of Mrs. Doe, a very intricate and sulfurous tune where Jayakumar and Kannan K generate a dense and disturbing atmosphere with their weapons, followed by The Gods Bleed!, a song perfect for breaking your neck headbanging spearheaded by Vinod’s devilish riffs, while Kathir continues to vociferate like a demonic entity, not to mention how metallic and impactful Jayakumar’s bass punches sound and feel.

Beast of Burden presents more melody blended with sheer darkness in the form of modern-day Death and Black Metal, with Vinod being on absolute fire with his riffs and solos while the gnarls by Kathir only get more and more infernal, and The Wandering Ascetic keep hammering our heads with their crushing sonority in The Will to Live, where all four band members make sure we don’t stop banging our heads to their vicious music, with highlights to Kathir’s enraged growls and Vinod’s ass-kicking guitar solo. After such high level of devastation, it’s time to dive deep into the crypts of Hades with those Singaporean metallers in To Hell, Back and to Hell Again, a classic, straightforward metal extravaganza with elements from the dirty Rock N’ Roll played by bands like Motörhead and Chrome Division, which obviously means it kicks some serious ass.

Here for the Good Things keeps the album at a very good level of malignancy and hatred despite sounding a bit generic (or I should say less inspired than the other songs), with Vinod slashing his guitar in a very precise and aggressive manner; and the cutting sound of his guitar is once again the main ingredient in the visceral Assassins, displaying some hypnotizing instrumental parts, in special Vinod’s guitar solo, while Kannan K doesn’t let the energy go down by smashing his drums nonstop. Finally we have Orang Laut, an ominous and grim blast of extreme music highly inspired by classic Doom Metal, with Vinod and Jayakumar extracting the most Stygian sounds from their strings and with the music ending as dark as anyone can imagine.

It’s not always that we have the pleasure of facing high-end metal music from such distinct country, completely out of the North American and European markets, and we metalheads should not only thank The Wandering Ascetic for that by following them on Facebook, but mainly by purchasing their new album Crimson from their own BandCamp page, from the Transcending Obscurity webstore, or from other retailers like Target. Crimson might not be considered a true revolution in music, but the four guys from The Wandering Ascetic definitely put on a lot of energy, creativity and passion in the writing, composing and recording of the album to ensure they were not just playing “more of the same”. Quite the contrary, Crimson does sound very unique and compelling, elevating the name of Singapore in the world of heavy music and paving a very interesting future for the quartet.

Best moments of the album: I Sing the Body Electric, The Gods Bleed! and To Hell, Back and to Hell Again.

Worst moments of the album: Here for the Good Things.

Released in 2019 Transcending Obscurity Asia

Track listing
1. Eva Braun 5:18
2. I Sing the Body Electric 4:46
3. The Exorcism of Mrs. Doe 4:28
4. The Gods Bleed! 4:42
5. Beast of Burden 4:01
6. The Will to Live 3:15
7. To Hell, Back and to Hell Again 3:10
8. Here for the Good Things 4:10
9. Assassins 5:04
10. Orang Laut 3:12

Band members
Kathir – vocals
Vinod – lead & rhythm guitars
Jayakumar – bass
Kannan K – drums

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Album Review – Rotting Christ / Rituals (2016)

The Greek gods of Black Metal return with a brand new opus that sounds more ritualistic and occult than ever, but as heavy and visceral as usual.

Rating4

rotting christ_ritualsI’m pretty sure most metalheads will agree with me when I say Rituals, the brand new opus by Greek Black/Dark Metal institution Rotting Christ, would be the perfect soundtrack to the most intense and gruesome epic movie of all time, making even classics like Gladiator look like a teen movie. Rituals does not offer just another selection of Extreme Metal songs crafted by this iconic band from Athens, Greece, but instead a sequence of ritualistic battle chants tailored to inspire us to grab our swords, shields and armors and be prepared to fight in this Holy War until our inevitable and sanguinary end comes.

In fact, this blend of Extreme Metal with History, religion and culture offered by Rotting Christ is not news to anyone. This has been a constant in the distinct career of this awesome Greek act since their inception in 1987, and with each and every new record they go deeper and deeper into the selected topics and themes, always improving the more contemporary blackened-Gothic style from their latest albums. Add to that the several guest musicians featured in Rituals and the band’s usual controversy in regards to their lyrics, and there you have another excellent album that will surely keep Rotting Christ more than relevant in the world of extreme music.

We already face a religious call to arms in the opening track, entitled In Nomine Dei Nostri (“In the Name of Our God”, from Latin), featuring guest vocalist George Zacharopoulos, who helps Rotting Christ in providing the album a solid start. Musically speaking, this tune is remarkably potent and imposing, a sonic battle that gradually grows within time and that gets even more impactful due to its demonic chorus. זה נגמר (Ze Nigmar), or “It’s Over”, is a dark and mysterious song about death and failure written in the official language of Jesus Christ (Aramaic) and is referred on his last 7 sentences on the cross, displaying the band’s trademark sonority with the guitar riffs by the band’s mastermind Sakis Tolis and the talented George Emmanuel creating a mesmerizing aura; while the high-octane tune Ἐλθὲ κύριε (Elthe Kyrie), or “Come Lord” from Greek, features Danai Katsameni (an actress of the National Hellenic Theater) vociferating some disturbing and desperate vocals which end up bringing a fantastic vibe to the music, not to mention those screams match flawlessly with the deeper growling by Sakis.

I simply love how many different languages and dialects are used by the band, always providing a fresh touch to their music, and in Les Litanies de Satan (Les Fleurs du Mal), or “The Litanies of Satan (The Flowers of Evil)” from French, that couldn’t be different, with the music generating a belligerent ambience that provides guest vocalist Vorph (Samael) all he needs to darkly declaim the song’s French lyrics (“Toi dont l’oeil clair connaît les profonds arsenaux / Où dort enseveli le peuple des métaux, / Toi dont la large main cache les precipices / Au somnambule errant au bord des edifices”). And as heavy and tribal as it can be, Ἄπαγε Σατανά (Apage Satana), the Greek for  “Begone, Satan”, brings forward a hellish march where its background noises and vociferations add an extra layer of obscurity to this disturbing chant, sounding like a satanic mantra at times.

rotting christIn Του θάνατου (Tou Thanatou), or “Death’s” from Greek, although you can hear straightforward Black Metal in the background, the music is at the same time very melodic and ritualistic, with hints of Symphonic Gothic Metal enhancing even more the quality of this beautiful cover version for a traditional Greek song by Nikos Xylouris. The initial and final narrations in For a Voice like Thunder (taken from the Prologue to “King Edward the Fourth” by William Blake) are obscurely amazing thanks to the fantastic contribution by the one and only Nick Holmes, who together with Sakis and his crew makes sure there are plenty of Gothic and Doom Metal elements from his band Paradise Lost added to the music.

Dark shadows continue to be over the music by Rotting Christ in Konx om Pax, which means  “Watch and do no harm” from Greek or “Light rushing out in a single ray” from Egyptian, another solid war-like composition where all instruments sound powerful, especially the sustained drumming by Themis Tolis and the song’s background keyboards. The same can be said about देवदेवं (Devadevam), or “God of Gods” from Sanskrit, a more melancholic and somber tune featuring guest singer Kathir which despite being very complex and dense, it lacks the Black Metal “venom” found in the other songs of the album. And the grand finale in Rituals comes in the form of a unique cover version for a psychedelic tune by Greek Progressive Rock band Aphrodite’s Child, entitled The Four Horsemen, where Themis and bassist Van Ace have exceptional performances while Sakis continues firing his bestial and effective growls.

There are so many details, so much content and so much to absorb in Rituals (which can be listened in its entirety HERE) that it becomes extremely difficult for an occasional listener of Rotting Christ to understand and enjoy everything the band is offering. However, if you’re a fan of occult and extreme music with a robust production and a primeval background, I’m sure you’ll have a very productive time listening to each “ritual” of the album. Rituals will take you to a time where crossing the thin line between war and religion was just a matter of accepting or not that the world we live in is hopeless, and there’s nothing we can do to change its wretched destiny.

Best moments of the album: In Nomine Dei Nostri, Ἐλθὲ κύριε (Elthe Kyrie) and Του θάνατου (Tou Thanatou).

Worst moments of the album: देवदेवं (Devadevam).

Released in 2016 Season of Mist

Track listing
1. In Nomine Dei Nostri 4:57
2. זה נגמר (Ze Nigmar) 4:43
3. Ἐλθὲ κύριε (Elthe Kyrie) 4:49
4. Les Litanies de Satan (Les Fleurs du Mal) 3:55
5. Ἄπαγε Σατανά (Apage Satana) 3:50
6. Του θάνατου (Tou Thanatou) (Nikos Xylouris cover) 3:37
7. For a Voice like Thunder 6:11
8. Konx om Pax 6:21
9. देवदेवं (Devadevam) 5:18
10. The Four Horsemen (Aphrodite’s Child cover) 5:24

Special Digibox bonus track
11. Lok’tar Ogar 4:25

Band members
Sakis Tolis – vocals, guitars
George Emmanuel – guitars
Van Ace – bass
Themis Tolis – drums

Guest musicians
George Zacharopoulos – additional vocals on “In Nomine Dei Nostri”
Danai Katsameni – additional vocals on “Ἐλθὲ κύριε (Elthe Kyrie)”
Vorph – additional vocals on “Les Litanies de Satan (Les Fleurs du Mal)”
Nick Holmes – additional vocals on “For a Voice like Thunder”
Kathir – additional vocals on “देवदेवं (Devadevam)”