Metal As Fuck Interviews Ancient Ascendant's Alex Butler

Ancient Ascendant guitarist and lead growler Alex Butler cornered Metal As Fuck to tell us about his band’s killer debut album, The Grim Awakening, which they plan to get “in everyone’s face”.


Fledgling death metal bands are a dime-a-dozen. The one thing that will make them stand out from the black crowd is a great album. Step forward the UK’s newest and mightiest, Ancient Ascendant.

After promising signs with the EP The Heathen Throne, Ancient Ascendant have really hit dark-payload. Their debut album, The Grim Awakening, will rise from its slumber August 15th (UK), which, as guitarist/vocalist Alex Butler explains here is free of gimmicks and heavy on old school death metal.


Metal As Fuck: What’s the band up to right now?

Alex Butler: Well right now I guess preparing for our next gig, starting to write new stuff but very much concentrating on promoting the album that’s coming out. We’ve got a few gigs coming up, next one’s in Nottingham. We’ve got appearances in London as well…just trying to get loads more gigs now. Trying to get out there, trying to let people hear us because that’s what we’re about; playing live, you know?

MaF: Absolutely. So the album The Grim Awakening – great name for an album.

AB: Oh, thanks very much!

MaF: Are you happy with it?

AB: Oh yeah, very much so. Like all album recordings there’s a certain amount of pain involved in making it. Particularly when you’re perfectionists as I’m sure pretty much every band is really…ultimately we’re really happy with the result. I think the song writing is us [laughs] so if they’re shit then we’re shit! [Laughs] Hertz (Studios) did a great job in a short amount of time to get the master sounding nice and professional and in line with our competitors really.

MaF: How does the Ancient Ascendant song writing process work? Does one of you come up with a riff and present it to the rest of the band? 

AB: Yeah, yeah, basically. I imagine much the same as a lot [of other bands]. We do have a lot of stages of re-dubs so we write riffs and then put them together in to songs and then these songs are constantly re-listened to and played in the practice room and re-played. Every part is analysed to try and make sure it’s good enough and not filler. And also that it never gets boring because if you write a good riff but play it too much in a song, or, of course, too little…I guess we try and optimize these things to try and make the best song. We don’t write lyrics first or anything, that’s like a final layer, so I write the lyrics afterwards. The lyrics are still important, I try and make them not shit, but most important is the music, the groove. 

MaF: Sure. How did the band come together? 

AB: Me and Dave (Moulding, drums) started a band when we were in school and since then we’ve always been up for making music. I was in a band called Heretic [with him] which commonly says online that that’s what we used to be, but actually it was a slightly different band. I guess it all was pretty similar but we didn’t really release anything good under Heretic and plus we changed the name because it was just a bit derivative. Heretic’s more memorable but sort of more like everything else. Ancient Ascendant’s not memorable at all, but if you actually somehow manage to remember it and put it in to Google, you’re definitely going to find us! [Laughs] So that’s the one advantage of Ancient Ascendant! [Laughs]

MaF: That’s forward planning if ever I’ve heard it! [Laughs] 

AB: [laughs] Right! So yeah we’ve always loved music obviously and wanted to make it. We wrote The Heathen Throne [EP]…with Phil (Greenwood, guitarist) but he couldn’t really commit to the band time-wise and everything so our good friend Nariman (Poushin) joined and he’s a great guitarist. He did the solos on The Heathen Throne basically last minute [we] just sort of pointed out where the solos needed to be and he had to just improvise them. So some of them are a bit nuts but we improved on that in the new album by composing the solos! [Laughs] So now we’re a four-piece I can’t see us ever changing, but lots of bands say that! [Laughs]

 MaF: So you’re from Reading, is that right?

AB: That’s right, yeah. Me and Dave are both from Reading, Berkshire as is (Alan) Webb (bass player). Nariman’s from Sweden but obviously he lives over here in England. We didn’t force him to he already was here!

MaF: I think it’s fair to say that historically Reading isn’t renowned for its metal music.

AB: No! [Laughs] Unfortunately we didn’t think about that before we started the band. Had we known more about what was expected of us we would have done something else probably, but it’s too late now! [Laughs] The scene in Reading is pretty depressing, it’s not great. But I imagine a lot of people could say the same about all of England as a whole, really. But I would say we’ve played all around England and there definitely are better places to play than Reading! [Laughs] I’m sure they won’t hate me for saying that because it’s true. But Reading is close to London, one of the good things about Reading! [Laughs]

MaF: Are you managing to build up much of a following in Reading?

AB: No nothing particularly in Reading. No more than anywhere else. I don’t live in Reading anymore, the others do. Obviously we have got a following there. I think one of the problems in building up a following…it’s all online which means you don’t have such a concentration of fans. But we’re very much fledgling at the moment. Once we release the album, once we got more publications, just like what we’re doing right now, people will start hearing about us…that’s the idea anyway.

MaF: Well it helps that you’ve got a great album coming out.

AB: Well that’s the aim, right? [Laughs] But now we’ve got to do everything else. When I first started music I used to think that all that mattered was just the music we play. Just the music, not anything else, not the performance. But as you go along you realise that other things do matter, particularly the performance, the live performance. You have to do a good live performance and, to a sort of more annoying extent, just advertising in a way. We’re not a band with money so we can’t just pay for [magazine] spreads and stuff but if no one knows about your music then no one’s going to give a shit about who you are. And there’s just so much music around that it makes it hard to check out everything. With this one we signed with Siege Of Amida and thanks to them we’ve had a pretty decent press package around. So this album should be in everyone’s face until they’re sick of it, that’s the idea! Or, even better, not sick of it! [Laughs]

MaF: A couple of years ago Ancient Ascendant was hand picked to tour with Bolt Thrower, is that true?

AB: That’s sort of true. We didn’t tour with [them] we were hand-picked to open for them in London so it was quite a cool competition…you just send in your submissions and Bolt Thrower listen to them all. Then they happened to like our stuff and picked us for London and it was a good gig. It was ULU [University of London Union]. It was good times, probably one of the first big gigs we’ve ever played.

MaF: Which band would you most like to tour with, either as a guest or selecting someone as your guest when Ancient Ascendant goes on that big tour?

AB: Well there’s many bands we’d love to tour with. I mean there’s some great big bands around and obviously we want all their fans! We’ll basically go around and steal everyone’s fans! If you’ve got fans we want to tour. Particularly fans with money, we very much prefer fans with money! [Laughs]

MaF: [Laughs] I can’t see a hole in your plan!

AB: [laughs] Exactly!

Joking aside obviously none of us are in death metal for the money, it’s about making great music and that’s what I hope we’ve done.

Our whole idea as a band is to try and be heady, be death metal-y but most importantly to be interesting. Constantly interesting. So there’s our progressive element but more fundamental to us is grooves. You should be nodding your head basically; you should be banging your head ideally.

MaF: And groove; on The Scorn of Dead Men which opens the album you can’t help but bang your head!

AB: Yeah, we just love that heavy groove. It’s just such a great thing, fundamental to all music. Coupling that with trying to keep it interesting instead of just the same groove over and over again. We try and combine loads of different influences, not try and be too derivative, but also we’re fundamentally an old school death metal band in a lot of ways.

MaF: Who would you say your main influences are?

AB: Main influences are bands like Death, Vader, Entombed, Opeth, Decapitated. Lots of bands! [Laughs] Emperor a little bit, I guess you wouldn’t hear that so much. Just the great metal bands we grew up listening to and even some newer ones now. One important part of us is we’re not trying to be heavier than all the bands out there, we’re not trying to be lower or faster or more extreme. There’s no single aspect of our music which we’re trying to do bigger than someone else because it’s not really what music’s about. We’re just trying to make it good! [Laughs] We’re just trying to make it interesting, trying to make it great to listen to. We want to listen to our whole album without getting bored.

MaF: That’s what makes music last. If it’s heavier or lower than anyone else that tends to be gimmicky and will get forgotten after a while.

AB: And, man, that highlights what we’re really not trying to be. We’re trying to get away from any gimmicks, you know? We’ve got no real gimmick, it’s really just make-or-break whether you like our music and that’s how it should be to be honest. We have got pretty faces though as well, so that helps!