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(57:08, Sonic Vista Music)
TRACK LIST: 1. Fourth Kingdom 6:24 2. Return of the King 3:41 3. Strange Dreams 7:30 4. Overture 6:12 5. Realm with a Soul 3:52 6. Seventh Rider 4:02 7. Weight of the World 6:44 8. Vision 18:43 LINEUP: Martin Walker – guitars Craig Walker – drums Gavin Walker – bass Alan Taylor – vocals Darrel Treece Birch – keyboards
Prolusion. The UK band NTH ASCENSION was formed at the start of 2010, initially as a quartet, and one year later they released a debut album of sorts: A live demo album called "Frequencies of Day and Night" which was made available as a CD-R and as a free digital download. "Ascension of Kings", their official debut album, was released through the now apparently dormant UK label Sonic Vista Music. The band has since signed with the US label Melodic Revolution Records, which currently also has the distribution rights to this album.
Analysis. Those in search of a by-for-them unknown progressive rock gem in the case of Nth Ascension will be in for something of a surprise, as this is a band that doesn't limit their excursions to material typical of most aspects of the genre. In addition they have a good ear for components that will have an appeal also beyond a progressive rock interested crowd, which probably makes them somewhat harder to sell to the ardent niche fans. Existing somewhere in the borderlands between Ayreon and Marillion, possibly with a few detours into realms not too far away from the likes of the UK stalwarts Magnum, this is a band with a potentially very broad reach, but also one of those bands you probably need to listen to before you can decide whether you like them or not. This CD can basically be described as having three different dimensions to it. The opening trio of songs is closer to a classic hard rock sound in style and execution, with some structural details and the keyboard arrangements adding in a progressive rock oriented element to those compositions. By and large, these are sophisticated hard rock tunes though, with some crunchy guitar riffs as dominating features. The second set of songs is a three-part suite (tracks 4 to 6) where the keyboards have a more dominant role and function, and the general style and sound is softer here as well. Emotional laden, flowing guitar solo passages with keyboards support or in support of keyboard solo passages are the order of the day here as well, and this section of the album should be a treat for most of those who tend to enjoy their vintage-like neo progressive rock. Following a gentler toned ballad, also with something of a neo progressive tinge to it, we're then presented with the concluding epic-length composition Vision, a close to 19 minutes-long massive creation where the band appears to blend the two facets of their sound explored earlier on, with some passages sporting more of a hard rock-oriented delivery, while others are much closer to the aforementioned neo progressive rock style, occasionally also blending both of these into a more complete whole. Nth Ascension comes across as an accomplished band on most levels, but the proverbial icing on the cake, at least on this occasion, are the vocals of Alan Taylor. His powerful, emotional voice adds a natural tension to the music in general, also serving as a good contrast to the grittier guitar sounds, used in the more hard rock tinged songs, as well as a powerful contrast to the gentler and smoother landscapes visited when the band explores their neo progressive tendencies. A tension builder and maintaining presence of it, which gives the album an added presence and identity that is just about a perfect fit. While I don't regard this as a spectacular album, it is a good one, with plenty of moments of brilliance, and concluding epic composition is probably the track I'd recommend new listeners to give a listen to first. If you enjoy this track, chances are that you'll find the rest of the album just as enjoyable.
Conclusion. Nth Ascension is a band that, on this occasion, combines classic hard rock sounds with vintage-like neo progressive rock, exploring each style individually at first and then combined at the end of the CD. Those who tend to enjoy bands such as Magnum and Saga just as much as Marillion and Pendragon should feel right at home with the contents of this CD, and should probably take the time to get familiar with it.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: July 1, 2016
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