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Ascension - Under the Veil of Madness Award winner

Under the Veil of Madness
by Kevin Lewis at 05 March 2023, 9:23 AM

ASCENSION is a five-piece Speed/Power Metal band from Aberdeen, Scotland. The focus here is precision and technicality for each of the instruments, including the voice. Lyrically, they go from real-life situations to fantasy and fairytale subjects, weaving together fact and fiction with impressive dexterity. Under The Veil Of Madness is their second full-length LP, released on February 24, 2023, via Juno Records. The album opens with “Sayonara,” a lightning-fast guitar work accompanied by similar bass and drum phrasings. The first words are a bit strange, “Have you ever wondered what it would like to kill someone you loved?” Don’t worry, this is not a threat against someone, just poses a question that they go on to discuss through the rest of the song. The vocals are all clean and Richard hits some really nice high notes. The biggest thing to remember is that the pace you hear now is what will continue for the rest of the record. Prepare to be amazed.

Megalomaniac” begins heavier and darker in tone. The guitars are again wildly fast, but so are the bass and drums. Blast beats start to finish seem to define everything this band wants to be, though there is a quick melodic bridge in this track that shift to an almost old-time player piano feel, giving the song an outlier section that fits in well. That is the only area Dick really seems to take a break. This is not entirely true as there are a lot of melodic sections, but it really feels like they run at warp speed whole at times. One of the examples of the difference is the intro to “Monsters,” which is piano heavy and fairly dark despite the lightness of the notes. Here, Nick’s bass really helps set up the tempo shift at the main body of the song, ushering in both the guitars and the drums. This really shows the completely skill set of every member of the band by the fourth song. After listening through a few times, you can tell they are five equals musically, and it takes all of them being in top form to pull off these songs.

At just over nine minutes, “Last Winter’s Night” is the longest song on the record. It is also one that really shows the interaction between Fraser and Stuart as they paly off each other with riffs and leads. This is also the song that shows a bit of ASCENSION’s Progressive Metal chops. This is the track that has a bass lead, drum fills, and guitar work that shows each member is worthy of being lauded for their skill set. Tons of tempo and phrasing shifts make this song complex and beautiful. ASCENSION is one of those bands, much like DRAGONFORCE that will be a bit misunderstood by many listeners. Their goal is not just to fit as many notes into a song as they can. While that is a feature of this music, the goal is to present complex compositions that challenge the mind to keep up, to listen again and again, to make sure you catch all the nuance and detail placed into each song. The little sound effects, the quick fills, even the way instruments drop to affect a phrase shift are all planned meticulously.

The attention to detail is amazing and now you should go back and listen for all those little things you missed the first time. And the second. Actually, even on my tenth listen, I’m still catching some of those things. This is an album that can stay new and fresh for a long time because there is always more to discover.

Songwriting: 9
Musicianship: 10
Memorability: 9
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

1. Sayonara
2. Megalomaniac
3. Defiance
4. Monsters
5. Set You Free
6. Last Winters Night
7. Under The Veil Of Madness (Part 1)
8. Power Of A Thousand Suns (Part 2)
9. Pages Of Gold (Part 3)
10. God Of Death
Richard Carnie – Vocals
Nick Blake – Bass
Dick Gilchrist – Drums
Fraser Edwards – Guitar
Stuart Docherty – Guitar
Record Label: Marque/Avalon


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