At last we have KK's Priest's second and long awaited album.
Album Review: Unfurl - Ascension
Unfurl’s third full-length is firmly rooted in sludgy post-hardcore, but the band bring in elements from a wide spectrum of metal subgenres to create a work that is both devastatingly heavy and effortlessly progressive. A clear evolution on their previous album, 2019’s ‘The Waking Void’, this album sounds punchier and more polished, and clearly demonstrates the band’s ability to change styles on a whim, while preventing things from sounding disjointed and fractured.
The band’s Instagram account describes them as “Experimental Blackened Hardcore”, while their Bandcamp page states “Introspective Post-hardcore funneled through a black hole”. This gives some insight into the genre-spanning, musical melting-pot that Unfurl stir themselves around in. It's a pot that contains a thick, sludgy base, but there are sprinklings of melody and clarity to be found amongst the mire.
Opener ‘Coiled Serpent’ starts with a sinister passage of dark ambience, giving a sense of foreboding, before launching head first into a frantic, math-inspired riff which sits firmly at the front of the mix. The vocals are positioned slightly further back, and switch between a low, Death Metal style growl and an aggressive, hardcore-inspired roar. The riffs come thick and fast, with the drumming matching the intensity until after the 3 minute mark when everything shifts to a higher pitch. Guitars and vocals take on a Black Metal sound, with harsh chords and screeches dominating. As previously mentioned, this is in no way jarring. The styles are very well blended, giving the listener a sense that they are along for the ride. You are being guided on this experimental journey, rather than forced into it. The final two minutes of the track feel like a satisfying conclusion to what came before, merging the Black and Death Metal styles effortlessly with the Hardcore underbelly.
The six and a half minute opener showcases Unfurl’s devastating heaviness and versatility. The four tracks that follow it are shorter and more to the point. While remaining heavy and intense, they fit more neatly into the “Experimental Blackened Hardcore” category mentioned on the band’s Instagram profile. There are mathy-hardcore riffs reminiscent of genre pioneers like Botch and Coalesce. The blast beats and tremolo-picked chords alongside higher, screeched vocals provide the “Blackened” aspect (Death Metal growls are still present, but used sparsely).
The album continues in this manner, until track six (‘Hyperviolet Estuary’), which opens with a riff that pulls us into a melodic, almost post-rock sound (think ‘Fall of Troy’ or ‘Protest the Hero’). We are then treated to the first clean vocals on the album, which add an extra depth to the overall sound, mixed in with the higher harsh vocals that have become the dominant style on the album. The final two tracks run at eight and a half and seven minutes respectively, and take on a much more progressive feel, weaving in the more melodic sound introduced in the previous track, without losing the intensity or energy that is present throughout.
‘Ascension’ is a more polished and well-rounded effort than the previous album, and is likely to have more impact. The latest has more to offer, which makes future listening more appealing. Given the range and diversity of the styles on display here, I will certainly be keeping an eye out for what Unfurl has to offer next.
Release Date: June 2nd 2023
Released By: Independent
FFO: Wake, Botch, Hexis
1) Coiled Serpent
2) Gossamer Ladder
3) Trembling In The Threshold
4) Burning Question
5) This Empty Planet
6) Hyperviolet Estuary
7) Entity Reunion In The Sky
8) Longitudes & Leylines