Crimson, the debut full length from Singapore’s The Wandering Ascetic, is the type of record that shows how truly unsurprising it is to hear music that is rather “post-genre” in 2019. Not a genre that includes “post” in the name, mind you, but a subset of metal that is both instantly recognizable as heavy metal and yet maddening to the types of listeners that desperately need every peg to fit in a perfect hole.
The most obvious influence of the record is Rotting Christ, a band that by the mid-90s was molding their extreme metal into something so tuneful and sophisticated that it rendered their name a shocking part of the sticker package. For example, a song like “The Exorcism of Mrs. Doe” carries with it a moodiness not unlike that heard on albums like A Dead Poem, but the forward drive of the vocals might also give listeners a flashback to something like Chaos A.D.; not exactly similar moods. “Beasts of Burden,” meanwhile, has a shimmery quality that calls to mind the great Ved Buens Ende family while the punchiness again reaches to the more extreme side of thrash—this time calling to mind the slower moments of Kreator. There are Bolt Thrower pummels, Bathoryesque chants, both wildly infectious and minimal riffs, a very dancing (and audible) bass, and the type of situationally aware soloing that can really act as song glue.
Most importantly, it all just rocks, and is put together naturally by a quartet of musicians that obviously enjoys playing together. There’s an ease to this music that only comes from musicians that are comfortable with their own talents, with each other, and with their influences. This should come as no surprise, seeing as how two of these four musicians are also in the great Rudra, but it also shouldn’t be discounted; the record has a very live-in-the-studio feel to it.
The Wandering Ascetic is not a profound band, and there’s nothing particularly surprising about their “post-genre” metal, but all the history that led to them putting out this infinitely listenable record is profound. That’s the beauty of metal, that after about half a century, there have been so many permutations and shifts and trends and evolutions that a rather straightforward record like Crimson can cause one listener-critic to think about all those permutations and shifts and trends and evolutions. So if just calling Crimson a Heavy Metal Record feels a bit like a lazy excuse to not be more descriptive, calling The Wandering Ascetic a Heavy Metal Band feels perfect.
Thanks for the writeup. You can really hear the Rudra, but it’s a different enough angle. I’m interested to get ahold of the full album.
I was worried, after the Rotting Christ comparison, that this would end up being a slog. I seem to be in the minority among the metal community on this, but I find Rotting Christ to be the most boring band in the world. There are worse things than being boring, like being Finnish. But I can’t see the reason that people hold the band in such high regard. As a matter of purely historical importance, other groups were doing similar experiments in the 90s. Therion and Edge of Sanity – to mention just two – were dabbling in the symphonic realms of extreme metal before Rotting Christ ever put together a full-length release. But I digress…