With the recent announcement that Burton C. Bell is stepping away from Fear Factory to focus on Ascension Of The Watchers, Apocrypha might just be the most important record of Bell’s career. And upon listening through AOTW’s first full-length since 2008’s Numinosum it’s apparent that, regardless of that news, Apocrypha is destined to be something important.
But I digress.
There’s something inherently magical about having new Ascension Of The Watchers material to listen to. The long awaited sequel! The sophomore opus that’s taken just as long a journey as the debut seemingly did! An album that is ultimately worth the wait, the end result is crushing but in a far different capacity than anything Bell is typically synonymous with.
“Ghost Heart” is a glimmering, glistening, pulsating ting of beauty. For the heavier music fans, there’s pieces of his City Of Fire project in there or those more anthemic Fear Factory tracks (Especially if you look to Archetype and Transgression). AOTW is a decidedly different affair for the most part, though, as the opener shimmers from these twinkling synth sounds from John Bechdel (Killing Joke, False Icons, Ministry, etc), Jayce Lewis’ staccato percussion, and Bell’s iconic voice and Post-Punk guitar tones. And yep, you read that right, Bell is rockin’ the guitar along with his role as Dry Lung Vocal Martyr.
Fittingly, “The End Is Always The Beginning” was just released as a single and as much as it is a herald of Bell moving forward, it also serves as a blueprint of AOTW: steady beats, synth-heavy atmosphere, lucid guitars akin to The Cure, and unbelievably hypnotic from start to finish.
The title track practically dances on its’ own from these primal pulses from Lewis and staggered guitar lines building to Bell’s voice piercing through the fog and demanding attention with an immediacy. “Honoree” is a futuristic ballad with a heavily effects-laden Bell vocal serving as your mechanical maestro before opening up into a sweeping synthetic waltz from Bechdel and Lewis who also provides programming throughout.
“Stormcrow” which, at one time was the name of this behemoth, is a sprawling instrumental monolith that stands smack dab in the middle of it all and serves as a tonal change for Apocrypha. On its’ own, “Stormcrow” is a triumphant yet moody soundscape fueled by mesmerizing bass lines, a glorious merging of guitars and keys, and penetrating drum attacks.
“Cygnus Aeon” gallops along, colliding into a wall of harmonious harmony that’s this kind of interesting mix of Post-Rock and Grunge or “Post-Grunge” if you will (Think Killing Joke meets Nirvana) while later, “Bells Of Perdition” shines with sweeping Bell vocal lines and broad instrumental passages that set a defining tone heading toward the inevitable conclusion of Apocrypha.
But before it comes to an end, penultimate ditty “Wanderers” comes in like that perfect soundtrack moment in a John Hughes flick where our hero has a profound realization before one last action-packed banger (Ferris’ conversations with Cameron or Sloane right before he races home come to mind). While not necessarily “action-packed”, “Sign Your Name” is a proper closer in the AOTW world as this haunting acoustic number scales back and strips away all the pretense and bravado for one last soul-bearing bang from Bell.
Apocrypha finally arrives on October 9th courtesy of Abstract Distribution. Pre-orders are up digitally here, physically here and here, and can be pre-saved on streaming services by clicking here. For more on Ascension Of The Watchers, follow them across the socials by heading here and here.