Ascension of the Watchers – Numinosum

Band: Ascension of The Watchers
Album: Numinosum
Genre: Ambient Rock
Label: 13th Planet

1. Ascendant
2. Evading
3. Residual Presence
4. Canon For My Beloved
5. Moonshine
6. Mars Becoming
7. On The River
8. Violet Morning
9. Like Falling Snow
10. Sounds of Silence
11. Quintessence

The mastermind behind Fear Factory is back with a new name and a new sound that’s sure to leave a mixed feeling in the stomachs of those who followed Fear Factory for so long. Burton Bell, along with John Bechdel, and Edu Mussi have crafted an atmospheric sound that rings with tones of rock and roll. Those who loved Bell’s past work with digital tones will have something to love here as most of what you hear more than obviously comes from a computer rather than human hands. The results of this new direction? Well, let’s just say the new album [Numinosum] made me, someone who was never a huge Fear Factory fan, wish Bell would just return to his former musical stylings.

Numinosum begins with, “Ascendant,” which may be the most lackluster introduction to an album I’ve heard this year. I understand that Bell is trying to set a melodic mood, but 3 of the near 6 minute piece is jsut a heart beat and very random string tones lightly accompanying it. Once Bell comes in, he sounds as if he’s trying to swoon us with his whisper when in fact he’s only setting a dark tone that feels forced and empty. At a glance of the lyrics, we find such emo noteworhty lines as, “dreams are like razors I hold in my hand,” which, well, is just dissapointing given this man’s previous efforts. However, I’ve heard much wose, so I decided we’d write it off as a fumble and continue on to the near 8 minute, “Evading.” This follow up is strong on the acoustic guitar from the get go, which made me very excited for what could be done with the track as Bell’s signature synth work came in, but the fruition was underwhelming. The vocals are on the bottom of the mix and feel distant as we’re bombarded with endless amounts of synth and various atmospheric noises as any signs of real instruments disappear. Though, there are moments in the lyrics [which continue to be on the disappointing/redundant side] where we here the sound Bell is known for. Even in this sea of noise his voice strikes like darts to a board. Had it not been for his captivating vocals, I would have lost hope for the album, but I continued on in hopes of finding some redeemable material.

I found some redemption in, “Canon for My Beloved,” which runs at about 8.5 minutes [there’s nothing “short” on this disc] and features mainly acoustic guitar. From a crackling introduction [complete with sampled wolf howl], Bell and crew build an eerie tale using simple jazz like drumming and reverb drenched acoustic guitar. It’s a love song of sorts, but the dark tones of the disc give it an overly evil feel for some unknown reason. As I settled in with a renewed interest in the disc, “Moonshine,” passed nearly unnoticed, but the allure of electric guitars on, “Mars Becoming,” pulled me in. Don’t get too excited, the song isn’t some flat out rocker, but rather a heavier version of all the previous pieces. In fact, it still has the same reverb effect as the acoustic tracks which, given Bell’s large history with synth/effects/pedals/etc. makes you feel as if it’s a bit of a cop out on his part. For someone so creative you’d think there’d be a lot of fresh noise to be heard, but in reality, it’s about 15 ideas repeated for varying lengths of time. This doesn’t mean the track is bad though because it has some resemblance of Pink Floyd which gives it a nice timeless feel and holds your attention as it’s so uncommon to hear such sounds these days.

“On the River,” the 6th track, may be the most upbeat of the whole album. From quick key tones to a driving drum beat, this is the feel we as the listener have been wanting throughout the disc. The chords are still dark in nature, but the upbeat tempo allows the gloom to remain while holding your interest. This is unfortunately followed by the return to subtlety with, “Violet Morning,” which is both the shortest track on the disc and the only one to last less than 4 minutes. Post acoustic tones, “Like Falling Snow,” has a digital beat that seems more fitting of a late 80’s hip hop track and really causes discourse to the flow of the album. However, my biggest complaint comes with the uncalled for cover of, “Sounds of Silence,” which is little more than overly atmospheric noise with distant drums and multi-layered vocals. Bell’s sinister tone turns this light classic and makes it something off a soundtrack to a horror movie. It’s essentially the end of the album, as, “Quintessence,” is a 16 minute instrumental track that does little to move you and leaves you wondering where the past 80 minutes went.

I’m all for people in the music industry trying new paths and sounds. For some, like Jesse Lacey, Dave Grohl, and Dustin Kensrue, it works just fine, but for others, like Bell on this disc, it fails. Numinosum plays like elevator music for the damned and just hold very little, if anything that has lasting value. This seems only fitting of being put in the, “don’t quit your day job/go back to your old job,” bin and never looked back on.

*Written By: James Shotwell*
GRADE: 2/10

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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