Ascending Into Shimmering Darkness
A tiny light prevails in the darkness
dB rating: 8/10
Release Date: April 21, 2017
The misery weavers in British doom trio Coltsblood know a thing or two about being heavy. There’s of course the suffocating distortion; what else would you expect from a project with ties to the volume addicts in Conan? On Ascending, ex-Conan bassist/vocalist John McNulty’s bellows were recorded by current Conan bassist/vocalist Chris Fielding, and later mastered by Esoteric co-founder Greg Chandler. You don’t need to be a connoisseur to understand heavy + loud, but having that talent turning the knobs sure doesn’t hurt.
But Coltsblood also channel emotional heaviness through their salvaged amplifiers. While their Into the Unfathomable Abyss debut invoked Bongripper’s mood-ruining misanthropy, the songs didn’t achieve Ascending’s balance of fury and melancholia. In a genre that embraces minimalism, Jemma McNulty’s A-tuned riffs surge with both suffering and hope despite their simplicity.
Whether it’s cosmic shoegaze or sepulchral synths (“The Legend of Abhartach”), Coltsblood have expanded their bleak canvas. In “Ascending into the Shimmering Darkness,” vibrant guitars sparkle against a pitch-black smear of bass. But it’s not all subtle textures and starlit introspection: “Mortal Wound” is its predecessor’s “Blood,” a violent foray into skin-peeling death metal. If you come into the record expecting Northern England’s take on Iron Monkey’s “9 Joint Spiritual Whip” through the lens of funeral doom, Ascending’s 55 minutes won’t disappoint you. But by the time Coltsblood closes with “The Final Winter,” the fragile moments seem as crucial as their signature bludgeons. Given the themes of their two LPs, Coltsblood seem keen to explore shapeless destinations defined by darkness. As this record suggests, sometimes ascension means you need to descend into the deepest pits and see what you dredge up first.
— Sean Frasier