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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