ASCENSION is a young, Scottish Heavy/Power MEtal band, hailing from Aberdeen. The band was formed to play Metal in vein of GAMMA RAY, HELLOWEEN, HAMMERFALL, DRAGONFORCE and so on. In 2005, a year after the band was founded, the self-titled EP was released. It took the lads, despite or thanks to line-up changes, one more year to put out a second EP, titled “Fortress”.
But all this changing of members led to a proper relaunching of the band in 2009. EP no. 3 was unleashed under the title “Moongate”. To promote this EP, ASCENSION got to share the stage with BROKEN MELODY from Italy. They also played at Metalfest UK, sharing the stage with DRAGONLAND, PRIMAL FEAR, VISION DIVINE and BLAZE BAYLEY. Anno 2010 the band released a new EP, “Alchemy”.
For their debut full-length, “Far Beyond The Stars”, the Scots went to Sweden, to Andy LaRocque’s studio (Sonic Train Studios). The UK tour that followed was shared with AXENSTAR from Sweden. The album was released in 2012, but the German label Limb Music Products re-released it around mid October 2013.
The album kicks off with “Somewhere Back In Time”, where you’re instantly attacked by furious riffing and fast drumming. Soaring, epic vocals complete the sonic picture. In terms of comparison, which makes it easier to identify the band’s tunes: think of DRAGONFORCE (I would say, vocals and melodies) meets STORMWARRIOR (here I would say rhythm) and a tad of ARMORY. But the result is very good. Riffs are also key in “Blackthorne”, which is a firm and tight song, played at high tempo. The band opted for a Thrashy beat in the chorus. Solos and blastbeats remind of the aforementioned band from the UK.
With “Reflected Life”, the lads show how well GAMMA RAY, STORMWARRIOR, KALEDON (to some extent) and so on influenced them. Melodic Heavy/Power Metal is at play, with a galopping rhythm and lots of leadwork. The riffing is classic, by the book. Solos were played by Herman Li and Sam Totman. No, they weren’t, but you know what I mean. 😉 There is, later on in the song, a nice stop-start part for the drums to add some fills, before all goes back to normal. Another high-tempo, melodic Power Metal song is “Heavenly”. Epic, high-pitched vocals are again on top of things. This song very much screams DRAGONFORCE. But it’s good.
Time for something a tad slower then: “Moongate”. It’s got a galopping rhythm, and overall could be described as IRON MAIDEN meets (old) STEEL ATTACK (“Where Mankind Fails”, 1999). Halfway there’s a nice, headbang-friendly twist, on which pattern the solo is played. After that, it’s business as normal. However, the twist returns, leading the way towards the end, which is done in a clean fashion. “Orb Of The Moons” is an instrumental track and a very good one, I must say. Of course there’s lots of room for leads and solos, with entertaining rhythmic breaks. Although melody plays a vital role, overall the song reminded me mainly of HAMMERFALL’s first two albums. And those are very good!
A ballad, you say? Yes, the Scots know their ballads. “The Silver Tide” is set to deliver the classic sounds. An acoustic guitar, keys in the back. Keys? The press text said this, about their founding in 2004: “Right from the beginning the Scots had a clear target in their sights: to go on tour as soon as they could in order to promote the band name and their songs, staying clear away from the keyboard-soaked, trendy stuff of the competition.” Well, we’re 2013 and keys were used. Or was that keyboard sound (and the harpsichord stuff in “Orb Of The Moons”) played via the guitar and software samples? In any case, no soaring vocals here. Ricki kept it clean and neat. The drums also aren’t as thunderous as before. This is soft and sweet music you’re getting. While it sounds cheesy, it is the kind of ballad you’d expect in this genre.
But time to buckle up again for METAL! “The Time Machine” offers midtempo Power Metal with the bass relatively high in the mix. Oh, and there are the harpsichord sounds again, after which the bands shifts into higher gear, leading to pounding, raging Metal. A calm, piano-driven break clears the way for the solo part. After that, the whole cycle retarts and all ends with solos. “Far Beyond The Stars”, the title track, is an acoustic interlude (acoustic guitar, keyboards, violin). It’s atmospheric, dreamy even. It does connect directly with “The Avatar (Ascension)”, which builds up the tension, to be unleashed without mercy. High-tempo melodic Power Metal, of very fine quality. The chorus is rather hasty and energetic. A symphonic break provides a sort of resting point, but when the Metal returns, the energy levels have dropped a bit. A la HAMMERFALL. A second resting point is not far off, this time in acoustic version, though with the piano and symphonics to strengthen the melodic aspect.
Last, the ROXETTE cover, “Listen To Your Heart”. I’ve heard the original a gazillion times when I was a kid, and at the time I found this a pretty ok song. I prefer “Joyride”. 😉 Anyway, while in several cases a Metal version of a Pop song resulted in very interesting renditions, it’s not always a success. And here it’s not a success. It might, for the lads, be fun to play the song, but the recordings sound too fake. Not that the guys didn’t really record it, but that the played stuff just doesn’t convey the band’s fun or integrity covering this ROXETTE classic.
ASCENSION is a new band to the (overcrowded) Melodic Heavy/Power Metal genre. While their influences can be clearly distinguished from the songs on “Far Beyond The Stars”, the Scots did a very good job in taking those elements and making something new. This is a very entertaining album that will surely get several spins, also if you’re in need of a boost or want to vent your emotions. The press text may say “The songs are varied and fast but in no way do
they make the listener think “heard this before”.”, but we all know better: of course we’ve heard it all before, especially when seeing names like GAMMA RAY, HELLOWEEN, HAMMERFALL, DRAGONFORCE, and so on. But again, that detail aside, it’s clear that “Far Beyond The Stars” is recommended food for fans of the genre.
- Somewhere Back In Time
- Reflected Life
- Orb Of The Moons (instrumental)
- The Silver Tide
- The Time Machine
- Far Beyond The Stars (instrumental)
- The Avatar (Ascension)
- Listen To Your Heart (ROXETTE cover) (bonus track)
Ricki Carnie – vocals
Fraser Edwards – guitar
Stuart Docherty – guitar
Nick Blake – bass
Dick Gilchrist – drums