Video link for Ascension Of The Watchers – touring as part of Ministry

Ascension of The Watchers was conceived as a creative journey for guitarist/vocalist Burton C. Bell (Fear Factory, G//Z/R) and keyboardist/programmer John Bechdel (False Icons, Fear Factory, Killing Joke, Prong, Ministry, and Murder Inc.); it is a vision born of life, love and spirituality. The band’s debut CD, Numinosum, was created by these friends with guitarist Edu Mussi (Still Life Decay) for Al Jourgensen’s 13th Planet Records. Bell’s writing and performance demonstrates tremendous artistic growth, maturity and subtlety compared to the work his reputation is based on. Ascension of The Watchers is being called “a darker, dirtier Portishead” by early supporters in the media. I’m including a link to the video for “On The River”:

In early 2002, Burton C. Bell retreated to the quiet and simplicity of rural Pennsylvania for seven months with his longtime buddy and musical confidant John Bechdel, escaping the ongoing pressures and stress of Los Angeles. As Bell’s mentor in music, philosophy and demeanor, Bechdel unwittingly guided Burton along the path to this artistic venture.  According to Bell, “2002 was a beginning of the chrysalis that has been developing for five years. I drove from Los Angeles to Pennsylvania, to work with keyboardist John Bechdel on some new music that I had been creating. John was definitely surprised to find that the music was nothing like Fear Factory. We worked in his converted machine shop/now studio, known as The Machine Shop, in the middle of the woods of rural PA in the late hours of mid winter and early spring. Working methodically, we intentionally wrote music that was orchestral in nature. Where layers of sound created a texture that was hypnotic, rhythmic, and melodic.”


The results were a demo titled “Iconoclast” featuring five original recordings that showcased Bell’s rapid musical evolution. Ethereal vocals, thought-provoking lyrics and music that artfully blended brooding synths with melodic, acoustic sounds. In 2005, “Iconoclast” was released on CD (the CD contains a home-made video for the song “On The River”) and limited edition vinyl, sold exclusively via their website. From the beginning, this project has been very personal and hands on for Bell and the packaging for this release and the other specially designed items available via their site has been painstakingly produced by the AotW team.


In 2006, Bechdel began working with Ministry and through him Bell was introduced to Al and Angelina Jourgensen, and was intrigued by their new enterprise, 13th Planet Records. Bell says, “The label was exactly what John and I have been looking for; a tight knit community of artists to associate and work with”, and in 2007, Ascension of The Watchers signed with 13th Planet. In May of 2007, with the addition of new guitarist Edu Mussi (Still Life Decay, Echoes and Shadows), the band went to the 13th Planet Studio in El Paso, TX to record new material and rework previously conceived songs with contributions from Al Jourgensen, the late Paul Raven and Ben Bell for their full length debut Numinosum. 


The genesis of the musical dynamics, artwork and title for the band’s full-length debut stemmed from a dream Bell had. As he told, “I was traveling over vast expanses of land and came to a clearing, where I saw a burning tree. The branches were silhouetted against the bright sky and I was struck with a sense of peace and awe. Then, I realized someone was behind me, but when he turned around, I woke up.” According to Carl Jung, one of the founding fathers of psychology this experience is called a “numinosum,” a mystical or religious experience that occurs within oneself, so that’s what Burton named the album. 


Regarding Numinosum, Bell states, “Lyrically, I wanted to explore the true nature of my soul, the place where my heart was headed. After reading the Dead Sea Scrolls, I was inspired by the Book of Enoch. In that book, I read about The Watchers, and their incredible story of desire and abandon. In a strange way, I related to the story. In my poetry, my words expressed the same desires and losses. After much thought, I came up with the band name Ascension of The Watchers; and built a story around the name of a Watcher who dreams of redemption.”


Bell and Bechdel’s relationship with the Jourgensens has progressed from simply being artists on their label. The pair is currently on the road with Ministry on their current “C U LaTouR”, with Bell as “Special Featured Artist.” Bell is performing songs from Ministry’s The Last Sucker in addition to selections from the recently released Ministry & Co-Conspirators’ Cover Up. On Cover Up, Bell’s vocals are featured on a rousing cover of The Rolling Stones classic “Under My Thumb.” Bell proclaims, “Anything that Al wants me to sing, I am there for him! When Al told me that he was going to cover a Rolling Stones song, and that he wanted me to sing it, I was curious and excited. I was picturing a later song, one that had raunchy vibe. I was surprised to learn that it was “Under My Thumb.” “That was a song that usually flew under my radar, however, when I started reading the lyrics, I was totally surprised and impressed even more with Mick Jagger. I had a lot of fun recording this song with Al!” he added.” 


Numinosum may have originally been developed from a dream, but Burton C. Bell has used that to expand musical boundaries and create a personal spiritual journey.

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Author: James McQuiston

Ph.D. in Political Science, Kent State University. I have been the editor at NeuFutur / since I was 15. Looking for new staff members all the time; email me if you are interested. Thanks!

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