Holy Scotsmen! I'm always on the lookout for more melodic power metal, and Ascension most definitely fit the bill. With their 2010 EP "Alchemy", these young natives of Aberdeen, Scotland have thrown their hats in the ring with their most polished recording yet. If rumors hold true, we should finally see a full-length from the band within the next couple of months here in 2011. I have to thank one of our other contributors here on the blog for introducing me to this band, who have apparently been flying under the radar since 2004.
Ascension's style of power metal is fast, with another of those very high-ranged male vocalists that is constantly blasting his way up the scale with ease. Gratuitous screams are all over this EP, and those who don't care for them had better stay WELL away, because veteran critics are definitely going to turn to the band's vocalist Richard Carnie with their brows furrowed. He's a competent singer, true enough, and definitely sounds passable a fair bit of the time. No, the problem with Carnie is actually his energy level: he is overzealous to the point of dominating the music and making a royal mess of it with his antics. This is after all power metal, and the guitars certainly have a claim to make on the music. In terms of timbre, some people will probably take issue with Carnie's whiney-sounding slides at times. I don't know the age of the songs, but the first track, “Another Chance At Life”, is most certainly the best offering (and cleanest) in most respects. Hopefully this is the direction that the band's new work will take.
The other tunes are not bad, but they are certainly chaotic. There are established melodies, both vocally and instrumentally, but they are so peppered with the “Whoa-oh!” of the singer and the shrieking whinny of the guitars (think Dragonforce here), that it's like moshing during a power metal anthem: it may seem fun, but it pretty much ruins the point of the genre and it doesn't really fit. The closest well-known bands to compare Ascension with are Cellador and Dragonforce. They're perhaps a little closer to the former, but lacking the sheer speed of either.
I actually got very excited when the last track came on. It's an instrumental version of Mozart's Horn Concerto No. 4, and is an extremely fun piece of music. I'm really into neo-classical shred and covers, and this is a great piece, so props to the band for a job well done! Overall however, "Alchemy" is only mildly interesting, and the middle three tracks are somewhat discardable because of their muddiness. If like me, you are always searching, you could do worse than to pick this up. The band's upcoming full-length will be the real indicator of what will become of them, however, so stay tuned!
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The Protagonist's Rating: 6.25 out of 10