When Hell Ascends Tonight Carves Their Name Into the Lehigh Valley Music Scene

While there are plenty of old-school hardcore, late punk, and horror-punk to go around, When Hell Ascends Tonight continues to establish their unique heavy, creative, deathcore-ish sound in and around their hometown of Allentown, PA.

Philadelphia has a thriving heavy music scene. Bands abound across all sub-genres of death metal, grindcore, deathcore, black metal, etc. But when you head just 90 minutes north to Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley, that sort of variety doesn't exist. Add to that, the members of When Hell Ascends Tonight don't really consider themselves a part of any of those genres. They've taken bits and pieces of each and woven them together with their own widely varied musical influences.

Where does that leave the band as far as building a fan base in and around their home? When Hell Ascends Tonight (aka WHAT) has done it all when it comes to the mission of spreading their music and playing to potential new fans.

In a recent chat with drummer Matt Gercie, he described one of the 'challenging' lineups they've played with in the interest of reaching a wider audience.  

When Hell Ascends Tonight (2018)
When Hell Ascends Tonight (2018)

"We played a gig a while back where the promoter tried to put on 8-10 bands. Ya know, one of those all-day shows? But WHAT ended up on a bill with bands who weren't anything like us: old-school hardcore, late punk, we've even done a bill with all horror-punk bands...groups that pull out Misfits covers. Just not a good fit at all."

But WHAT hasn't been discouraged. They've been together since 2017-18. The band's members have changed a bit over the years but when they can't find a replacement member, they'll conjured up a replacement however they can. Over time they have brought in click-tracks, in-ear monitors, and some guitar and effects coming through pre-recorded tracks. The music sounding great is what's import to Gercie and his bandmates.

But it's not all frustration. With every head-scratcher of a night's line-up, there are those who continue to work to develop quality shows for fans of WHAT and the heavier acts in the area. Gercie pointed to Tom Taylor, who's been in around the Lehigh Valley for years. "Not everyone gets on with him well, but he's worked well for us. He promotes his shows daily and works hard for every promotion he puts together."

WHAT has branched out a bit when it comes to playing regionally. They've played Philly. Made a trip to Brooklyn. The Rusty Nail in Ardmore, PA is another good road trip for the band.

And the more they've played and recorded, the more their music has grown in depth. "I feel like we're just starting to find our sound now," Gercie said. They've gotten much better over the years, constantly incorporating new production aspects into both the recordings and live shows, "adding electronic and atmospheric elements to our live shows that you would only hear on a recorded produced track"

Recently the band took a few months off to recalibrate. The break has been spent focusing on writing and recording. The most recent result? Releasing a video for "Earthbound" on Black Friday 2022.

"Right now we're 'realigning,' taking a break from playing to concentrate on writing and recording." And it's boding well for the band. Looking ahead, they've got a show that's coming together in Bloomsberg, about 90 minutes northwest of Allentown. "That looks to be a lineup with 'lighter' bands but they're good. It'll be a good night."

Video reaction YouTuber Hardcore Keem has featured not one, but two of WHAT's videos on his channel. Last week he dropped a reaction to "Earthbound." In 2021 he featured "Fallacy," which got him air drumming to the point that he "almost knocked over my whole operations." 

 But when it all comes down to it, it's about the music. The band is psyched about their current writing and recording. Gercie said, "We haven't been this pumped about a release in over a year." Look for When Hell Ascends Tonight on your favorite streaming services. They've got some songs in the can and will be unleashing more throughout 2023.

Photo by Tim Moyer

Posted on 11/29/22