Demo:listen: Ascendency

Ascendency is the latest throne-claimer from Simon Daniel Larsen, guitarist/vocalist of reigning underground death metal demigods Phrenelith, drummer of blackened punk corpses Lesion, and several other “projects . . . some metal, others not,” according to the man himself.

Simon Daniel answered our questions via email. We reached out soon after recovering from hearing Ascendency’s two song demo Ascending Primacy for the first time. According to Simon Daniel, Ascendency started to take form when he “found [him]self conjuring up more and more riffs that didn’t fit into Phrenelith[.]” Really, the way he tells it, the idea for Ascendency was lying dormant in Simon Daniel for a long time.

“I’ve always been a huge black metal fan since I was very young so the interest has always been there at least, and I’ve always planned to start a project that was more in the darker end of the musical spectrum. But initially I slowly found myself conjuring up more and more riffs that didn’t fit into Phrenelith, and conceptually I had a lot of ideas that I wanted to try out, where I would need a clean slate, so to speak. There was also a strong desire for total freedom, unhindered by a lot of outside influence, and the input of too many other people.”

The name Ascendency sounds like the drawing of a sword from its scabbard. As a word it’s elegant yet sinister, subtly imposing. Simon Daniel says he chose the name because “it fits the band and its overall themes perfectly. It’s meant to convey the sound of domination and the struggle for power through the times. We aim to make the music as majestic, triumphant and monumental as we can, to underline that sentiment . . . I also find the concept of an ascended being interesting, like a mortal man elevated to divine status. I’ve had this ongoing fascination with transformation and transcendence for a long time.”

Driven by his own riffs, Simon Daniel took up Ascendency on his own, at first.  

“I play everything on this recording except the drums, that are very real, as is the person that played them, haha. Even though I play drums, my ability as a drummer would be much too limited for this project. Ascendency has actually existed for some years now, with me originally playing everything including the drums on a demo recording, before realising that my capability as a drummer was not on par with this project. Since we recorded the tape we’ve recruited a second guitarist, that’s already opening up for grander musical possibilities. I was originally hesitant to involve other people into the band, but I have found some very like-minded allies now.”

Among his like-minded allies is Ugur, the drummer of Taphos, Copenhagen’s downtuned death mongers. Simon Daniel says he brought Ugur into the Ascendency fold for the drummer’s “direct and primitive approach,” which he says “underlines the songs with pure rhythmic punishment.”

Ascendency’s demo was recorded “by a friend” in Copenhagen, says to Simon Daniel, “where a lot of recent releases from Copenhagen have also been recorded.” He adds: “We’re very satisfied with the sound we got, since it offers the right amount of filth with enough clarity as well. We will utilise the same studio for our next release, which will be the first MLP/MCD of a trilogy we have planned.”

Ascending Primacy is only two tracks long, but they are two fully-fledged and intelligently composed bangers. The first track opens with a timpani storm and that martial blaring of brass, then some muscular and armored melodeath riff spears you right out of your seat.

Simon Daniel says the lyrics for opener“Altered Beast” are “about a bestial awakening, an uprising revolt against the powers that control you, and the transformation one undergoes before venturing into battle. If we were channeling an elder god on the track, it would be the lord of change and alteration.”

“Concerning my vocals I just found the higher pitched screams more fitting, since I wanted something more visceral and desperate,” explains Simon Daniel. “It was also a way to do something new, and thus make it distinct from what I have been involved with before. But I do immensely enjoy growling vocals in black metal as well, and I would imagine that the vocals will be expanding upon in different ways on future recordings.”

“Culling the Weak” at first smolders in the wake of the opener. The riffs here are begin more subtly, everything leads to the second when all of that gathered tension gets burned off during a solo-impaled halftime part that somersaults deftly into some head banging melodeath promised land. Only for the song to start building all over again . . . Simon Daniel says that writing the demo closer, “Culling the Weak,” “came about very naturally.”

“We had an idea of what kind of vibe we wanted to build, and it felt natural creating and rehearsing the song. I owe a lot of the lyrical inspiration to the Roman historians Polybius,Tacitus and Titus Livius for their description of Roman militarism, and the deranged debaucheries of their respective rulers. There’s a duality in the song in that it’s both about unity and solidarity, but also about the complete paranoia and delusions of grandeur that can possess a person. Overall it’s about solidifying one’s position, and establishing leadership of the horde.”

As for the name of the demo, Simon Daniel says, it “refers to a risen influence, that’s taking power, and it’s ascending primacy. It fits into a grander narrative about the rise and fall of an despotic tyrant that will play out over the three aforementioned MLP/MCDs. It will give an account of the age-old tale of thirst for power, and the ultimate betrayal of ego and arrogance.

“We’re in contact with several labels, that we’ll lock down an agreement with soon, and other than that there are smaller tours and one-off gigs in the works,” Simon Daniel says. “The times are very productive for us right now, and we have a lot of drive and vitality as things are looking now. We’ll also enter the studio in early May to record the first of the three aforementioned MLP/MCDs.”

May is already next month, so getting ready for the Ascendency take over. Make sure you snag a copy of Ascending Primacy, first, whether digital or one of the forthcoming tapes from the second pressing.

“The first press of the tape is currently sold out, but a repress will be ready in a couple of weeks from this article going online. People are free to write to our email ascendingprimacy-at-gmail-dot-com and I’ll secure a copy till the tapes arrive.”

Ascendancy tower with blinding promise and noble might. Another incredible new band that demands your hawkish attention and total support. Thanks to Simon Daniel for the killer interview—and the tape trade.