Ascendia: The Lion And The Jester (Self Released)
I hadn't heard much about Canadians Ascendia but Jesus Christ on a stick I wish I lived in Canada so I could see this band live. They play modern progressive power metal of the highest quality, with an album that blends modern thrash, with keyboard driven prog metal, a sprinkling of djent on At The End Of It All all topped by the phenomenal vocals of Nick Sakal who is part Russell Allen, part Howard Jones part Matt Barlow all wrapped up in one man, with his dulcet booming vocals fitting the stirring musical backing that is heavy and dramatic in equal effect. Remember Me is modern metal at it's finest harking to Killswitch Engage with it's metalcore rhythm underscored by the keys and orchestrations of Maestro who is key to the bands sound adding the cinematic and classical elements that imbue the bands sound with a proffessional feel, see No More Tales To Tell as the perfect example to this merging a film score, with a fist pumping power metal track.
That's not the say the rest of the band are slouches the guitars of Jon Lov drive the riffage like Adam D but he also solos like Michael Romeo burning up the fret board with his fleet fingered guitar playing on Moonchild (not a Maiden cover) as well as every other song on the album. All this lead melody is backed by John Abanador's technical bass playing and the furious and dynamic equally adept to the faster tracks such as My Last Song but also the dramatic ballads Last Forever and The Song That You Deserved. The songs on this album are fantastic, fans of the power/prog genre will lap up, the title track has pathos, power and indeed is the most progressive track, Faded Away has the same emotional gravitas as an Evergrey track and the album ends with the acoustic bonus track Starlit Eyes. This is a fantastic debut by the Canadians who have knack for this kind of music, find the album an let it blow you away! 10/10
Night: Soldiers Of Time (Gaphals)
Another week another retro/trad metal group from Sweden, they do seem to have more of them than I've had hot dinners. Well with a handful of bass gallop, a waist lined with a bullet belt and a dual guitar assault Night are knee deep in 80's metal riding the wave of Enforcer, In Solitude etc. Night do it very well with gritty guitars coming from Midnight Proppen and Burning Fire who also shrieks and screeches over the classic sounding tracks like We're Not Born To Walk Away, the gutsy Above The Ground while Highway Flip masters the bass working with session drummer Martin Hjerstedt. Despite their genre tag they aren't afraid to mix it up a little as Towards The Sky is an acoustic break in proceedings and Secret War does sound a little like a Danger Zone by Kenny Loggins with a bit of country thrown in. They can still rock like a bastard though with the Kings & Queens having the same style as Mercyful Fate a band they sound a lot like as well as the normal influences. Night have released a great second album here and fans of the genre will love it especially Ride On which is a track that can be blasted at full volume out of a muscle car on the sunset strip. A good album that is yet another inclusion into the retro metal scene. 7/10
Abrahma: Reflections In The Bowels Of A Bird (Small Stone Records)
Parsisian mob Abrahma play psychedelic heavy rock that incorporates a heaving slab of doom on tracks like Omens Pt 1 and Weary Statues. With the four men in perfect sync, the tracks all complement each other to take you on a kaleidoscopic journey through mind-expanding music with every single guitar riff and melody from Seb Bismuth and Nicholas Heller floating in the dreamy passages like Omens Pt 2 and smashing you in the guts like a sledgehammer on A Shepherd's Grief while Gillaume and Benjamin Collin provide the booming bottom end see An Offspring To Werewolves. Bismuth also hollers over the wall of noise and provides the electronics and general audio madness. This is a good addition to the genre but is very much of the genre; a trip of an album with some low, slow, psych rock but one that doesn't cove any new ground. Psych/doom fanboys will lap this up and it's best enjoyed with a large doob. 6/10