Band: The Wandering Ascetic
Label: Transcending Obscurity Records
Genre: Black Metal, Heavy Metal
Release Date: February 12th, 2019
I try to never be a “genre-elitist” or the “genre police,” but I will admit on the first listen of The Wandering Ascetic’s Crimson LP I was confused and thrown off the trail. Let me bring you back to where my mind was at when I picked this record up. Transcending Obscurity has a real talent in doing exactly what their name describes. They transcend through the ranks of obscure and underground metal to constantly bring us listeners fresh and phenomenal material. Just last year records from Heads for the Dead, Depravity, Gaerea & Veilburner to name a few all came out on Transcending Obscurity and really impressed me. So obviously when I saw a “Black/Thrash” band from Transcending Obscurity in our promo bin, with album art done by the legend Mark Riddick, I rushed to grab it. I was quite shocked to hear a well-crafted blackened traditional heavy metal record in a similar vein to bands like Slaegt; a surprise, to be sure, but a welcome one.
The album begins with a ferocious punch in Eva Braun. The intro riff is one of the fastest sections on the entire record and is punctuated by a nice bass slide to welcome you to the record. If you are at all familiar with the band Rudra, you’ll immediately feel at home and welcome through the guitar riffs and the vocal performance as these two have come from Rudra. The song continues to develop riff by riff but always is under the command of Kathir’s ferocious voice.
A few songs later into the album and we are treated to what I consider to be the real star of Crimson, the bass. The Gods Bleed! is a slow burn of a track that is beautifully led by Jayakumar’s bass playing. The bass is the lead throughout this track and it dances across the song, creating a beautiful atmosphere under the terrifying vocals.The tone is honestly just perfect, sits well in the mix and complements the music so well on every track throughout the record.
One of the complaints I did end up having on subsequent listens was that Kathir’s voice seems to only have one pitch. Unless it was a chanting section in The Gods Bleed! or during the strange speaking section of Here for the Good Things. The cadence is almost in a storytelling manner which really forces you to pay attention to the vocals & the lyrics. While the vocal performance is raw and impressive it really does end up lacking in variety. Also (and I can’t harp on this too much because English isn’t their first language) Kathir’s vocals are extremely legible and commanding so you can understand everything he’s saying. Some of the lyrics are a bit cliche or even goofy. Like in Eva Braun “You are my friend, oh, you are my enemy!”, or in The WIll to Live “The future depends on you as usual… see the stars they’re shining bright!”
Another lowlight from the album was the mixing of the drums. Throughout the entirety of Crimson the drums either feel too weak or missing almost entirely! The sound of the music is great, the guitars come through with a real bite. The bass tone is delicious and present at every moment. The vocals sit at the front of the mix and are extremely clear. These facts really make the weak sound of the drums stand out even more and was a huge disappointment for me every playthrough.
Back to the positives, because I thoroughly enjoyed the effort from Singapore’s The Wandering Ascetic. Crimson is densely packed with groovy riffs whether it’s a danceable bassline or a fist pumping guitar riff from Rudra’s own Vinod. As I mentioned in the beginning of this review The Wandering Ascetic is definitely a traditional heavy metal band at heart and it comes through in their song structures and riffs. It really comes through though in Vinom’s incredible guitar solos. In the mouthful of a title, “To Hell, back and to Hell Again…”there is a guitar solo that will blister your fingertips just from listening to it.
Crimson by The Wandering Ascetic has been full of surprises for me since the moment I laid eyes on it in our promo bin. I picked it up because it was a “black/thrash” record from Transcending Obscurity. I was surprised to find a blackened traditional heavy metal album led by members of Rudra. I was surprised by the constant presence of bass guitar, I was surprised by the lack of drum presence, and I was definitely surprised by a few silly lyrical passages too. While it may not be traditional to call any variety of black metal “fun,” this album is nothing but that.
1. Eva Braun
2. I Sing the Body Electric
3. The Exorcism of Mrs. Doe
4. The Gods Bleed!
5. Beast of Burden
6. The Will to Live
7. To Hell, Back and to Hell Again…
8. Here for the Good Things
10. Orang Laut
Total Playing Time: 46:21
I’m pretty great. Just ask me, I’ll tell ya.