Ascend the Hollow – Echoes of Existence
Ascend the Hollow (formerly known as Xerosun) is the first new female-fronted band I’ve listened to in a long time. Their recently released debut album, “Echoes of Existence ,” is a journey filled with an intriguing mix of aggression and melody. This new iteration of the band consists of RAVEN (guitars and programming), GEF (guitars and programming), M-NOISE (vocals and lyrics) and DAVEC (bass), whose achievements include touring and supporting bands like Avenged Sevenfold, Sirenia and Xerath. Their various influences have come together to form a solid cyber-tech metal debut.
“Echoes of Existence” is a powerful 10-track piece that directly addresses a number of taboos. Mental illness, suicide, rape and child abuse are all a part of it, though the main message of the album centers around mental health and human rights awareness. Lyrics that deal with such serious topics, wrapped in a diverse mix of vocal styles from deep growls, powerful screams and pure, clean singing, creates a whole new level of depth to the music. It’s heavy, powerful, aggressive, melodic and serious. The band describes it as “a journey through the dark sides of humanity in the context of a modern, technologically advanced world.” It hits hard, and it hits good.
Track #1, ‘Polaris Calling,’ is symbolic depiction of both spectrums of bipolar disorder. Starting off with melancholic ambience, it soon sets the tone for the album overall. Not even a minute into it, it erupts with a fierce, heavy hitting riff and chilling screams. In a good way. This is followed by a part that shows off M-Noise’s clean singing voice as well as the band’s electronic influence. The song keeps an energetic feel throughout, strongly helped by the drum beat, and is a good indicator of what’s to come.
Next up is ‘Vessels.’ The subject matter here is abortion rights. A very politically loaded topic these days. But ATH aren’t the types to let that stop them! Still keeping the energy up, this one feels a tad more aggressive-sounding. Which I’m all about. ‘Mother of Morality’ starts with a bang, and doesn’t let up. Shifting the focus over to criticism of the justice system, the title comes from a quote by Friedrich Nietzsche: “Fear is the mother of morality.” It tells a powerful story of a young victim turned scapegoat, instead of receiving the help she needs.
‘Sea of Crises’ takes on a mystical theme known as “lunar lunacy,” which is believed to be a set of erratic and dangerous behaviors induced by a full moon. In this context, the song uses the phenomenon in relation to real life events. It keeps up the instrumental energy from before, and especially the powerful chorus at 1:17, with use of dual vocals to create a more “epic” sounding feel. M-Noise shows off her diverse range, and the dynamics are varied. One of the album’s highlights for me.
‘Into the Black Eye’ acts as a prelude to the following track, ‘This Dark Rage.’ It features a sinister mood with lyrics being repeated in Polish as a mantra, with a section of regular singing in the middle. It creates an unsettling atmosphere, and the following song features an equally unsettling theme. It cuts right to the chase with a dark, heavy riff and screaming vocals. The song tells a story inspired by Miranda Barbour, a teenage murderer and abuse victim, who turned to murder as a way to “spare hundreds of girls from abuse” by removing dangerous individuals who would commit such acts. The chorus features soaring clean vocals that paints a nuanced picture of a disturbed individual who was initially just another victim. Powerful.
Track #7 is called ‘Swarms Within.’ It explores a mental issue called trypophobia, the fear of irregular patterns and clustered holes. It explores deep places of the human psyche, which is interesting, but the rest of the song falls a little flat for me. The riffs are heavy, but compared to the rest of the album, they’re not quite up there with the others in terms of catchiness. Ultimately not the song I’ll remember the most.
‘Prisoners of the Storm’ does a much better job of this. It deals with the effects of depression, which is becoming more and more prevalent in today’s society. After a brief electronic intro, it erupts into an epic guitar piece which also accompanies the chorus later in the song. The following verse is relentless in its aggression, and when the chorus comes along, the words “strive to survive, strive to escape” capture the reality of many sufferers of depression.
Ascend The Hollow – Prisoners Of The Storm (click here if video doesn’t play)
At 7:44, ‘Repent Rewind Reset’ is the longest track of the album. It revisits the topic of sexual abuse and mental health through Miranda Barbour, from ‘This Dark Rage.’ It questions the moral implications of convicting mentally ill victims whose trauma drove them to crime, as opposed to helping them. The song itself, for me, stands out as one of the most memorable ones. An intro featuring background chanting to go with the heavy riff, nice vocal melodies in the verse and probably the best chorus of the album for me. At just over the 5 minute mark, the dynamic shifts to a more mellow tone with more chanting vocals, before the guitar solo comes in to end the song, with the other instrumentals setting a nice, less aggressive atmosphere behind it. My favorite track of the album.
The album ends with another minimalistic track called ‘C3lls.’ It sets a mellow mood, with the phrase “We are alone in this world” being spoken in 5 languages; German, French, Danish, Italian and Dutch, in a robot-sounding voice. It ends the album with raising a philosophical question: “Is anybody left on this Earth?” After all the different themes of the album have been explored, with humans slowly but surely disconnecting themselves from each other, are we going towards a future where every human is alone?
“Echoes of Existence” raises some very interesting and serious moral questions that challenge the listener, as well as exploring issues that today’s society, a lot of times, purposely avoids facing. These questions and issues are wrapped in solid musicianship, which makes for a captivating listen. Ascend the Hollow have started off with a bang, and I will definitely look to catch them live sometime.
- Polaris Calling
- Mother of Morality
- Sea of Crises
- Into the Black Eye
- This Dark Rage
- Swarms Within
- Prisoners of the Storm
- Repent Rewind Reset