Album Review: Ascendia – The Lion and the Jester
Posted by ChristopherMammal
Genre: Progressive symphonic power metal
Release date: 21 December 2014
Previous releases: This is their debut album
Length: 58 minutes
Recommended to: Fans of Dream Theater, Symphony X, Kamelot, Circus Maximus, Arena, Uriah Heep, Whitesnake and other quality, melodious metal and rock.
Mammal’s rating: 4 out of 5
I invented the genre label in the album info at the top of this post. I had to. Ascendia doesn’t slot into any single category. That is intentional by the band. They’ve been building their own, unique combination of styles and influences. In their case you might say, “One band fits all.” In my opinion they’d do damn well at any rock festival, prog festival or metal fest. Their appeal should span across a wide range of tastes.
I’ll let the band write the next couple of paragraphs, because they perfectly sum up what I take from this album: “Although incorporating influences played a significant role in writing the album, most of the attention was paid to achieving our own pioneered sound.
“The main thing we tried to accomplish was a true sense of balance; there needed to be an even threshold for every element we added. It’s like a well made soup; if you add too much of one ingredient, it can really spoil the taste.
“In context of the songs, we focused on creating complete harmony between many things such as the amount of symphonics and the amount of traditional rock instruments used, the amount of heaviness and the amount of melody, the amount of subtlety and the amount of class, the amount of North American and the amount of European influences used… with a foundation rooted in the symphonic tradition of European metal.”
The outcome of all that strategizing is that “The Lion and the Jester” is a multicoloured avalanche of brightly shining music. It ranges from the exuberantly hard-and-heavy to restrained, self-exploratory lyricism. To achieve such a mixture of power and emotion must have taken a hell of a lot of planning, writing, rehearsing, re-writing and more rehearsing. You don’t approach perfection without putting in a mountain of work. For Ascendia, all that effort has paid off beautifully.
Hats off to all the members for their sterling individual performances as well as the way they’ve read and balanced their contributions to achieve the balance they sought. Drummer Billy Lov, bassist John Abanador, guitarist and second vocalist John Lov, and a keyboardist identified only as Maestro have welded their music into a harmonious and sweetly orchestrated tapestry of sound. Nick Sakal, the lead vocalist, makes grand use of his strong, excellent tenor to pack every song with range, intensity and passion.
The track sequence surges and simmers alternately between forceful, rawkin’ metal and gentle ballads. The lyrics are nicely matched to the melody and rhythm in each song to convey many moods and experiences expressing the travails of being human. Ascendia tell that their first-ever composition, “Starlit Eyes”, was conceived as an acoustic ballad. That’s how it’s performed on the 12th and bonus track of “The Lion and the Jester”. It is the culmination of an epic theme that flows through the last four songs on the album.
It took me longer than intended to get to Ascendia in the welter of new albums that arrive at Metal State every day. Sorry, guys, if this review is coming out later than might have suited you. For my part, I assure you it was more than worth the waiting. I’ll be looking forward to your next album.
Meet Ascendia on their Facebook page.