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DemiAura – The Ascendant Award winner

The Ascendant
by Mark Machlay at 21 September 2021, 7:06 AM

It’s beautiful sight to see a band finally finding the missing piece that has the capability to put them over the top. On DEMIAURA’s fresh album “The Ascendant”, the Phoenix, Arizona-based progressive metal trio makes a quartet with the addition of singer Chelsea Wrathchild and it could blow the doors off the prog metal world. The band has been around since the 90’s as the trio of Keith Heaney on drums, Bobby Chavez on guitar, and Jonathan Gabriel Jr. on keyboards – choosing to eschew the need for a bassist as the latter pulls double-duty and adds the low-end needed. The band did record and release a self-titled album in 2015 and were praised for their musicianship but among the criticisms, a familiar refrain echoed that the compositions seemed to follow a pattern of “verse, chorus, verse” that just seemed to be repetitive unless there were words to go over them. The band displayed lots of potential but just seemed to lack something special, that little extra “wow” factor that could put them on the map.

Apparently, the DEMIAURA had already been aware of this and been seeking a vocalist for many years. Eventually they finally found a proper fit, auditioning and welcoming vocalist Chelsea Wrathchild in 2017, in an exquisite origin story in which fate met with opportunity. In 2018, they recorded a multi-song demo to court potential record labels. Pavement Records signed the band in 2019 to release their debut album, "The Ascendant" which was self-produced at Black Paw Studio in Atlanta, GA, along with a full-length music video for “Between Two Fires" which was filmed at a variety of Arizona landmark outdoor locations. "The Ascendant" was released on July 16th, 2021. The album and the band’s sound covers many influences from jazz fusion and film soundtracks to progressive rock and metal titans such as RUSH, FATES WARNING, PERIPHERY, LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT, OPETH, and CYNIC.

The first thing that needs to be said about DEMIAURA’s “The Ascendant” is that this sounds like a band that is just having fun, throwing ideas around a small practice room with an effortless sense of camaraderie. It gives me hope that the genre can lean back into that early 90s era in which bands wouldn’t be afraid to try something, emphasizing the “progressive” side and less on the djenty almost metalcore vibes that have been more prevalent lately. The band brought back a couple of their songs – “Pleiadian” and “Escaping the Event Horizon” - from their previous instrumental album and spiced it up with Wrathchild’s powerful pipes. The sections that were a bit more riff-heavy benefitted heavily from the added melody of a voice on top and added a whole new perspective on what were already two lovely songs. I’d argue that “Between Two Fires” may not be the strongest choices as a single as it bends and winds a bit like a gnarly tree at the start and the coherence isn’t really obvious until later. On the other hand, it showcases the band so well. The inventive guitar lines, jaw-dropping solo work, soaring synth riffs and intricate drum work all elevate the new singer’s ability and lifts the band to a whole new level. If you enjoy that 90’s-2000s more experimental, yet heavy prog metal with the softer sound of a female vocalist, you have to check out DEMIAURA.

Songwriting: 10
Musicianship: 9
Memorability: 9
Production: 8

4 Star Rating

1. Pleiadian
2. Heavy Skies
3. Between Two Fires
4. Through The Ages
5. The Dreaming
6. Antikythera
7. Escaping The Event Horizon
8. Shining Through
9. Perfidy
10. Equinox
Chelsea Wrathchild – Vocals
Keith Heaney – Drums
Bobby Chavez – Guitar
Jonathan Gabriel, Jr. – Keyboards
Record Label: Pavement Entertainment


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