Indeed, Ascension have crossed their own Rubicon on Under Ether. Still staunchly BLACK METAL to the bitter end, here, the band’s unbridled ambition takes them on a journey to the most haunting hinterlands of their pitch-black sound. Like gleaming obsidian, Under Ether reflects (and refracts) a kaleidoscopic array of hues, each darker than the next. It all coalesces into a hideous swarm – or, to reference an ever-apt song title, “Pulsating Nought” – that, despite its usually teeth-gnashing intensity, displays a cool/calm/collected knack for dynamics: space and shade are laid bare across this treacherous landscape.

After the suitably stage-setting intro, each of these seven sins rushes onward with an almost-disarming ease, Ascension within the churning maelstrom directing its every malevolent move and sulfurous shudder. Further, they’ve expanded their melodic arsenal here, with evocative leads often taking center stage; other times, riffs are colored by cleaner tones that nothing less than soul-searing. Completing the totality of Under Ether is stalwart production, courtesy of Michael Zech and V. Santura: warm and feverish and totally analog, but possessing a palatable clarity that allows every detail to ring true. Gleaming obsidian, indeed…

With a full decade under their belts now, Ascension are no longer plucky newcomers; with Under Ether, they’ve truly become masters. Prepare to go under, deeper than ever…