• 2/10
    ASCENSION OF THE WATCHERS - Numinosum - 2/10


13th Planet Records
Release date: February 22, 2008

User Review
0/10 (0 votes)

The new project by Burton C. Bell (Fear Factory) and John Bechdel (Ministry, Prong), who released an EP called Iconoplast in 2005, which almost went unnoticed, at first glance seems like an interesting album for fans of the harder side of life. But, the two guys retreated to a quiet part of Pennsylvania to record this album, and they came up with the total opposite of what could be expected – unless one knows the aforementioned EP, of course.

The last releases of Fear Factory could not keep up the level of quality and originality of the brilliant albums Demanufacture and Obsolete, and one of the reasons may have been that Bell’s musical interests have shifted considerably. This is obvious on Numinosum right from the start, when a six-minute intro of atmospheric sounds and electronic heartbeat tests the endurance of the listener. No shouting, no hard riffing – and that is going to continue throughout the whole album.

Bechdel and Bell wanted to embark on a musical journey of self-discovery, and unless one is in the mood and mindset and has the explicit interest to follow them down this lane to the center of their universe of sound, the album surely is nothing but a disappointment. Where you want riffing, there is minimalistic clean guitar parts. Instead of cool drumming, they have a computer, programmed for simplicity, and where there should be strong vocals, you get a tame Bell experimenting with his voice to the limits of his abilities, sometimes even beyond. The guys throw in some wafting keyboard sounds and stretch their stuff until the musical content is so thin it almost evaporates like morning dew. Most of the time the music does not even deserve to be called Rock, as it remains solidly between Ambient, New Age, Electro, and a hint of very tame Goth. That may be a melange that appeals to some, but most certainly not to most of the Metal Express Radio audience.

Especially during the first few songs, the patience of the Metal fan is tested with monotony and repetition in every of the first three songs that all stretch up to eight minutes. The opening track “Evading” already introduces Bell’s clean voice, melodic, but with a lot of effects, something everyone already knows from Fear Factory, which fails to accentuate the individual tracks as much as the instrument section does. So the following songs “Residual Presence,” which has a very fitting name as often the music hardly shows a real presence at all, and “Canon For My Beloved” in which the guys manage to – surprise, surprise – actually turn down the tempo further, again to make no lasting impression. Except for the fact that the voice effects seem to be necessary to disguise vocalistic inadequacies, something to be experienced again in “Violet Morning.”

From the following “Moonshine,” which sounds like it had been written end of the sixties or under the influence of some substances better not mentioned, to the final “Quintessence” of the extraordinary duration of sixteen minutes which has some intense parts but keeps those buried under a thick layer of tedium, only two songs get the listener’s attention: “On The River” has a – for this album – unusually accentuated rhythm to which one can almost dance. At least until the song falls back into the same unspectacular flow the rest of the compositions exhibit. The second is the Simon And Garfunkel cover “Sound Of Silence,” which has been used to torture Metal fans by other bands like Nevermore or Heir Apparent before. To give the guys credit, it actually fits quite well with their own original material.

This album is only for the extraordinarily open-minded music fan. It has absolutely nothing in common with the two musician’s former bands and projects, and it should probably not be reviewed on a Metal page at all as it misses that target audience by miles, something quite obvious when you realize that there is not a single track that can be included in the Metal Express Radio stream. The recommendation therefore can only be: If you like New Age and Ambient sounds, please look at the Ascension Of The Watcher Web site to find out more and judge yourself. But, if you want Metal, just tap into the stream and turn up the volume here on Metal Express Radio!


  • Frank Jaeger

    Frank was a reviewer here at Metal Express Radio, based out of Bavaria, Germany. He has worked in the games industry for more than 20 years, now on the manufacturing side, before on the publishing end. Before this, he edited and handled the layout for a city mag in northern Germany ... maybe that is why he love being part of anything published. Frank got hooked on Metal at the age of 14 when a friend introduced him to AC/DC. They were listening to The Beatles, Madness, and The Police, and he decided they should move on. Well, they did, Back in Black became Frank's first Metal album, and since Germany is reasonably close to England, they had some small New Waves Of British Heavy Metal washing up on their shores: Tygers Of Pan Tang, Samson, Gillan, Iron Maiden, Saxon, Sweet Savage, Diamond Head, etc. If he had to pick his favorite styles, Prog and Power Metal would be at the top of the list.

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