The Ominous Circle begins Appalling Ascension with layered guitar feedback and alien growling on “Heart Girt with a Serpent.” It’s an unsettling way to open any album up, a tortured cry for assistance that’s unheard. That is, until it goes on. And on. And on. All until what should be a quick, efficient intro track becomes as bloated as a corpse. The debut LP from this Portuguese death metal group does that too much, sullying the good will a few of the songs relay.
Once that questionable first track is dispensed of, Appalling Ascension moves in a roaring pace with “From Endless Chasms.” The transitional guitar solo, from a melodic stance to one of dive bombing noise, is stellar, as is the proficient double bass drumming. It’s a suitable burst of expressive death metal. The band spans from the timeless, explosive quality of the forefathers of the genre to the gloomy ideologies of those on the fringes of death and doom metal.
It’s not that the music turns sour, or the band fall off the wagon, but there’s a clear lack of distinction as the album wears on. It’s prevalent in the second half, where the last four songs wear themselves thin on derivative riffs and clunky slowed-down sections. A wild solo here and there doesn’t help, and neither does the jagged guitar maneuvers driving the verses on “A Gray Outcast.”
Appalling Ascension may win favor with devotees of death metal, but its exorbitant nature turns what is a smattering of great ideas into a scattershot creation. Their tormented ideals and hate-fueled perspective are expressed in an appropriately ill-mannered way, but that becomes blunted with songs that are minutes too long. In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, there was a line that said, “Brevity is the soul of wit,” and The Ominous Circle would’ve been wise to take that seriously when writing this album.
(released January 27, 2017 on 20 Buck Spin/Osmose Productions)