Denmark metal band Ascendant has released their second album, an EP entitled Serenity. Whereas their first album The Alteration had elements of hardcore, death, and black metal, Serenity showcases Ascendant branching out into other areas, namely doom and progressive metal.
Undoubtedly, one of the most impressive aspects of this record is the vocals. Frontman Josua Poulsen shrieks and gurgles through the album like a rabid wolf bent on the annihilation of a legion of innocents. He is supported in this endeavor by bassist Jens Gronhoj. Certain moments stand out for their diversity – the shouted vocals on “The Void” that immediately bring to mind Ian Arkley from Seventh Angel to the singing and spoken lines on the closer “The Foundation.” Guitarist Kristoffer Vammen does an adequate job of intertwining driving guitar passages with melodic leads and some memorable riffs; however, branching out more into solo territory would bring the record to a whole new level. A simplistic, invigorating solo in the style of Iron Maiden or a solo that slowly builds up with sheer melodic intensity, like the one on Extol’s “Undeceived,” would be appropriate for their style of music. I do very much appreciate the outro on “The Void” – more moments like this would make a more memorable record. One area that the band could improve in is in the drums and bass. There is certainly nothing wrong with either of these on Serenity, but I find that the more I listen to metal music, that it is these two elements that separate good bands from great bands. Utilization of the bass guitar as more than just an instrument to hold down the low end of the chord (like in “The Foundation”) and the inclusion of more drum fills and even solos would help to set this fledgling band apart from the competition.
The band scores big with their opener and closer on the record, and I keep coming back to these songs, but somewhere in the middle Ascendant seems to have lost their creative edge. There wasn’t enough variety. The inclusion of more instruments for melodic passages would serve the band well in the future – keys, acoustic, strings, etc. – and keep the listener more engaged. Some slow, doomy or even sludgy passages would be great. I also think that the band should elaborate on the best things going for them. This includes diversity in the vocal arrangements. I was also impressed by the tempo changes in the music, notably on “The Foundation.” Pulling this off can be tricky, but the band nailed it. Jens and Levi, who wrote the lyrics, also do a phenomenal job. In a few places they are cut and dry, portraying the band’s Christian faith. In others, they are more philosophical and even poetic, as on “Serene:” “Rippling water dripping from the last winter snow // between walls of steel and stone I found you flourish.”
A newcomer to the field of metal mayhem is often cast aside, plowed under, or phases out within a release or two – but Ascendant is a band that has great potential if they continue to develop their sound and talent. Keep an eye on these guys from Denmark – better yet, keep two eyes on them, or you might miss something wonderful.