It might be a bit much to say that Aluk Todolo are just another instrumental art metal band from France but, after all, they are. Still, they have the signifiers down cold -- moody as hell cover art, appropriate song titles, and so forth. But they've got a couple of other things going for them -- mastering courtesy of James Plotkin, who does a terrific job, plus an album title that shows they're aware of the Skullflower wing of things, which is always handy. Put it all together with what they have and Descension succeeds as a good debut, and it helps that for the first two minutes of opening track "Obedience" everything seems like it'll be one thing -- minimal, moody croons and wails, low tones, and general gothed-out feelings -- before the band crashes into a mess of brawling, huge-sounding noise, with drummer Antoine Hadzioannou making a hell of a cymbal-heavy racket in particular. Meanwhile, Shantidas Riedacker's compressed, screeching, and trebly feedback on the concluding "Disease" actually makes for more of an honestly irritating (in a good way!) metal move than a fair amount of the chunkier riffs out there. In contrast to the hyper-extreme moments, the steady, atmospheric, but otherwise unremarkable slow pace of the first half of "Burial Ground" doesn't immediately stand out, yet shows that they can make a good enough soundtrack to a doom-plod if they'd like. "Woodchurch" does the same basic approach but feels just that much more compelling, with Hadzioannou's rolling drumming adding an extra kick to the moody proceedings.
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AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett