Review Summary: A little new, a little old, a little cheese, and a whole lot of catchiness come together to make a promising debut.
2 of 2 thought this review was well written
The Ascendicate are a relatively little-known nu-metal/metalcore band hailing from oft-maligned Jesuscore label Solid State Records. At a quick glance, they aren't appealing: the Solid State site describes them as "for fans of bands like Slipknot, Killswitch Engage and Sevendust." For many metalheads, this could be a major turnoff, and these detractors' fears are, at least in part, well-founded. The Ascendicate's debut album has all the things that make the genre such a hated one in the first place: it has the simplistic, catchy choruses, it has the relatively annoying tough-guy shouts, it has the bad cover art, it has the terrible song titles, and it has an abundance of overly simplistic, often badly-written lyrics.
But, unlike so many other bands of the type, The Ascendicate manages to pull this style off extremely well. Their music is catchy, but not in the obnoxious way that can be typical of core bands. The choruses are anthemic singalongs, but manage to be heavy and well-placed anthemic singalongs, and the vocals aren't half-bad either. Lead vocalist Eric Marlowe's cleans are more than passable, and can get to be damn impressive in songs such as Stay Right Here and A Bit of History. Guitarist Ryan Helm adds some harsh, semi-growling vocals which aren't a bad idea on paper, but end up not really working for most of the songs they're placed in. It might be that they're overused and often forced, or it might be that they're rough and scratchy to the point of being dry and obnoxious: whichever one it is, they remain one of the album's weak points. A better harsh vocalist could do wonders for them in the future.
Where the album really shines is in the instrumental department. The Ascendicate still puts droptuned power chords to liberal use during (some of) the choruses, but the riffs and licks at other points throughout are nothing short of impressive. From the lightning fast and technical (Pride of the Brutish) to the brilliantly simple and catchy (A Bit of History), each song is defined by its focal riff. Some, like that of Fire That Kid, are technical in a way that seems forced and out-of-place, but the band mostly steers clear of that and gives us plenty of dropped-A pinch-harmonic heavy beasts to keep our feet tapping and our heads bobbing (not to mention some great breakdowns). The drummer, Chris Wheat, is probably the band's single most talented member, and his use of the double bass rivals that of many renowned drummers in the death and black metal scenes. He has blast beats, he has machine gun-fast lines, and everything else in between, ultimately serving to be the band's obvious MVP.
This record is not for everyone: if you already have a hatred of all things associated with Solid State or you can't stand anything with the most remote nu-metal influences, you need to steer clear of this. However, if heavy, catchy-as-hell choruses, killer riffs, and face-smashing pseudo-breakdowns sound like something you could go for, this is the album for you. The Ascendicate have managed to put an extra-heavy, fairly unique spin on a genre that many thought could not be saved, and have done this without sacrificing any of the infectious catchiness and accessibility that made people buy millions of records from similar bands in the first place. They have successfully crafted an album that manages to be intelligent and fun at the same time, and it will be extremely interesting to see where they go in the future.
Album Highlights Stay Right Here
Pride of the Brutish
A Bit of History