Local guitar god Gentry Densley has been a staple of the Salt Lake City indie/hardcore scene for nearly 20 years and has never ceased to amaze. Playing guitar for the likes of the legendary Iceburn, Form of Rocket and, more recently, Eagle Twin, he continues to push the boundaries of what heavy music can be. His newest project, Ascend, a collaboration with Greg Anderson, founder of Southern Lord Records and guitarist for both Engine Kid and Sunn 0))), is everything you could ask for in a doom metal record—and even a few things you might never expect. It’s good to the last drop.
Anderson all but wrote the book on sludge/doom metal so the low tone and snail’s pace tempo are no surprise, but it’s clear that Densley’s unmistakable jazz-metal style has helped push Anderson in a slightly new direction. Densley and Anderson are able to play off each other for inspiration and explore the realms of heavy music, adding new twists and ripples to each riff. Dark, beautiful melodies fight to the surface while the bulk of the music still retains the chest-crushing power that drives the album.
While Ascend is mainly Densley and Anderson’s show, the two manage to find a spot for a few of their friends in order to beef things up. Local studio engineer Andy Patterson lends his talent on the drums and Soundgarden’s Kim Thayil shows up a few times to layer some face-melting guitar solos on top of the drone. At certain points throughout the album, a Wurlitzer, an organ and a trombone are all incorporated to give it more of an experimental jazz feel. These instruments are not randomly thrown in, and work in the context of the songs, making it clear that Ascend is striving for something more than another run-of-the-mill sludge album.
Ample Fire Within is largely an instrumental piece, but Densley’s gruff, alluring vocals do rumble through on occasion. His not-quite-monotone style gives the record a distinctive human touch that would otherwise go missing in a barrage of low-end sound.
Make no mistake—while there are no mosh-worthy breakdowns, Ample Fire Within is still one of the most beautifully heavy records you’ll hear this year. Anderson and Densley make a hell of a team, and they made one hell of an album. Here’s hoping the musical marriage continues. Southern Lord Records