Album Review: Ascension of the Watchers – Apocrypha

An interesting time for Apocrypha to be released, with lead singer and founder member Burton C Bell formally announcing his departure from Fear Factory on a couple of days ago. Hopefully that news will direct attention towards this album rather than divert it away.

Ascension of the Watchers already have a couple of releases out, but you could be forgiven for not knowing about them. Or perhaps being too young to remember. Their last, the debut full album, was released in 2008 so this follow-up has been some time in surfacing. It also had to weather the storm of PledgeMusic tanking along with their fully subscribed campaign before Dissonance Records picked it up. So has Apocrypha been worth the wait?

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First things first, this is not a Fear Factory record by any extent. There’s an edge of the industrial to it, but it’s far closer to that meted out by Ministry (for which Bell has sung, and of which John Bechdel is a serving member). The label “gothic metal” has been tagged to it, but that makes me think more of the likes of Paradise Lost and it’s not got their sound either. However, it’s more laid back and ethereal than either.

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Second Opinion (Rick):

I have to be perfectly honest – I knew nothing of the band until very recently and out of the three musicians I was familiar with two, with vocalist Burton C Bell being the most noticeable of those.

The first thing that struck me with first single “Ghost Heart” was the ambient and harmonious feel to Bell’s vocals. Entwined with the melancholic atmosphere they really took me by surprise as they fit so well.

After ten years of writing, the album flows organically with personal highlight “Bells of Perdition” resonating and making me want to go back to familiarise myself with previous offering Numinosum which, although enjoyable, isn’t as well produced and as colossal as Apocrypha.


Bell’s vocal style is even more relaxed than his cleaner Fear Factory ones. They’re airy and lend themselves well to the trippy sound that pervades the album as a whole. That’s not to say that it doesn’t rock in its own way. Somehow the third member Jayce Lewis manages to make his drums pound at times, and laid back at others. Impressive. But from a guy who made Darth Vader’s last ever video recording, this is probably a walk in the park. The force is, indeed, strong with this one.

Samples and long intros are the order of the day on Apocrypha, such as in “Bells of Perdition” which Rick justly picked as one of his favourite. This is a slow head-nodder of a song, very gloomy and doomy and creepy with an equally long near dead-air outro. On anyone else’s album, this would be the oddball closer, the one you used to get on CDs squirreled away as track 99. Here, it’s just par for the unusual course.

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Compare it to the uplifting “A Wolf Interlude”, or the atmospheric “Stormcrow” (which once upon a time was the title track), or the thumping (once it gets going) lead single “Ghost Heart” and you have quite a variety of songs. Each of them definitely gets a little from the band members’ other projects, but not enough to claim they’re too similar by any stretch. Apocrypha is a hugely original work and a very new direction for Bell and his colleagues. Let’s see where it takes them…

Apocrypha is out on October 9th

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October 14, 2020 4:50 PM

[…] knowledgeable and forthright. With Ascension of the Watcher’s new album Apocrypha now out (and reviewed recently), it made an odd change to be talking to him about a different project… but every bit as […]