The Lion And The Jester

SKU: 889326143956
Label:
Private Release
Add to wishlist 

"Despite what the name might lead you to think, progressive metal is among the most static and boring of all heavy music genres. Half the bands that fall under the moniker exist merely as a vehicle to show off the skills of the players involved, which is fine in small doses, but rarely sustains a creative career. The other half of the bands stick rigidly to the blueprint of one of the fore-bearers of the genre, giving us music that sounds exactly like something we've already heard. Very little of progressive metal is actually interesting, because it is a genre that lacks people dedicated to the art of songwriting. Songs are what makes any band successful, no matter how much sheer musical skill they possess. Dream Theater didn't get to where they are just because they are amazing musicians, they also wrote a slew of great songs and albums. The number of progressive metal bands who have impressed me with their songwriting in recent years is miniscule, but I mention all of this because Ascendia is one of them.

As “At The End Of It All” swells into focus with a tribal drum beat and chanted vocals, it's already obvious that this is not going to be prog-by-numbers. The song kicks into gear with a syncopated guitar riff, before the vocals soar over the top of everything, slapping a thick coat of melody atop the sound. There's a quiet section in the middle of the song that feels like a cousin of Killswitch Engage, which is a fresh sound to hear in this kind of music. When it opens back up into the chorus, the song is massive, and it's hard to believe all of that music was contained in five and a half minutes.

The songs on the album are more bite-sized than typical progressive metal, but that plays into the band's strengths as songwriters. By keeping the songs lean and tight, they hit harder than if the instrumental sections had been extended by a minute here and there. There is interesting playing going on, but it's all done within the framework of the songs, and never put out front to dominate the spotlight. It's an approach that is smart not just because of how easy it is to get bogged down in instrumental pyrotechnics, but because an album of that sort would never be able to survive the Herculean vocal presence of singer Nick Sakal.

With more than a little bit of similarity to the former singer of the aforementioned Killswitch Engage, Howard Jones, Sakal's vocals dominate the album, making you wonder where a voice like that could have come from. His baritone is warm, rich, and not at all what you would expect to hear in a band that isn't playing down-tuned hardcore.

But what is most important are the songs, and that's where Ascendia proves themselves as standouts. Whether tackling more modern fare like “Remember Me”, or more traditionally melodic songs like “Moonchild”, there's a phenomenal blend of heavy riffing and soaring melody. I can't tell you how rare it is to hear a progressive metal band that is so in tune with melody, and can write songs that could stand up if they were stripped down to the chord structure and the vocals. We get an example of that with the duet ballad, “The Song That You Deserved”, a largely piano and voice song that is as beautiful as it is heart-breaking. Ascendia's ear for songs is excellent, and that is what makes “The Lion And The Jester” such an engaging listen. Song after song, there's a warm and inviting chorus waiting to wrap its arms around you after you've heard the heavy and intricate moments.

This year has been off to a ridiculously great start, with at least half a dozen legitimately great records having already come my way. Add “The Lion And The Jester” to that list, because Ascendia is making progressive metal the way it was always supposed to be. Both challenging and gratifying, intense and cathartic, “The Lion And The Jester” is a phenomenal piece of work that reminds me of the very best progressive metal I've ever heard. This is an album you need to hear.

Oh, and how awesome is that cover art? That is one album that will look as good as it sounds in a collection." - Bloody Good Horror

There are no review yet. Be the first!

Product Review

You must login or register to post reviews.
Laser Pic

customers also bought

SEE ALL
  • Axxis has been around since 1988 with "Time Machine" being their ninth album. This German band emphasizes melody and hooks with subtle touches of speed and crunch. Mixed by Dennis Ward it features very full production. This is the limited edition digibook and features and enhanced CD with a multimedia section.
    $9.00
  • New 24 bit remastered edition of the second album from this essential Canterbury band. Gilgamesh was the sister band to Hatfield & The North that walked the same ground minus the humor (or vocals). The late Alan Gowen was a brilliant keyboardist and is matched here by Hugh Hopper, Trevor Tompkins and Phil Lee.
    $17.00
  • "The Grateful Dead, by the very nature of what they did both in live performances and in the studio, are particularly poorly served by a greatest-hits-type collection -- this was not a singles band (although with “Touch of Grey” they finally collected a hit single). More than anything, the Dead were a rolling, touring phenomenon whose jazzy, spacy take on Americana and penchant for encouraging the taping of live shows created a bonded community out of their fans. This ten-song budget compilation can hardly begin to catch the whole ragged familial appeal of the Dead, but it does, given its brevity, provide snapshots of the band at different points in time, which makes it a pretty nice and low-priced purchase for the absolute novice fan -- Deadheads will already have every song here ten times over and in countless versions." - Allmusic
    $5.00
  • Here's a prog rock band from New Jersey that frankly was completely unknown to me until I stumbled on them recently.  Good thing too!No More Pain is a quartet that blends contemporary sounds with classic old school prog.  My initial thoughts when I first heard the band was going to lead me to comparisons to Spock's Beard and Echolyn but the deeper I dug into it the whole thing clicked - BEARDFISH!  Lots of similarities to that great Swedish band in the way they take elements of the 70s and wipe the schmutz off it and make it sound fresh and new.  Some nice flashy keyboard solos will make you flashback to 1973 Tony Banks.  Scrub the comparisons you might read referencing Dream Theater - none of that is going on here.  This is pure prog rock.  If you are looking for metal move on - you'll be disappointed.  Lots of music packed into this disc, capping off with the 17 minute epic "The Network".  These guys need a publicist and maybe get out and play some festivals.  Highly recommended.
    $10.00
  • Deluxe digipak version comes with a bonus NTSC DVD featuring "The Making Of Trust".
    $15.00
  • Some of this sounds so much like Black Sabbath that I thought I was listening to a Count Raven album.  Latest album from this French doom metal band continues to mix in 70s prog moves as well as psychedelic folk.  A bit underproduced but that does lend a bit of charm.  Cool stuff!"It’s no secret that the French progressive doom band Northwinds is a favorite here at Vertical Chamber Apparatus as the band continually pushes themselves both creatively and compositionally. Despite their two-and-a-half decades of existence and a bulletproof discography the band still dwells in relative obscurity to the world at large. While the group is often and not necessarily unfairly labelled as a “doom metal band” that label is really only a fraction of the story. Northwinds definitely invokes the ancient rites of doom metal—mostly in an organic, proto-doom spirit—but they also voyage extensively into the realms of progressive rock, folk, psychedelia, and 70’s inspired hard rock thus taking the listener on phantasmagorical journeys into uncharted lands. With four outstanding releases already under their collective belts the band is poised to release their fifth full-length, the long-awaited and highly anticipated ‘Eternal Winter.’The band’s excellent 2012 album, ‘Winter,’ was initially conceived as a double album appropriately titled ‘Winter…Eternal Winter,’ but the idea was shelved by Black Widow Records as a risky venture. ‘Winter’ was a career defining moment for the band as the release seemed to capture them not only at their doomiest, but also at their most mystical. Based on the strength of ‘Winter’ it is exciting to know that most, if not all, of the material of ‘Eternal Winter’ was conceived and composed during the same writing cycles that have produced some of Northwinds’ strongest and darkest material to date.‘Eternal Winter’ is unquestionably an extension of ‘Winter,’ though the latest doesn’t quite descend into the same dark depths as its predecessor, nor does it establish the consistent magical atmosphere that was threaded throughout the previous album. These points should not be mistaken as criticism, but should be taken as mere observation as Northwinds has yet to disappoint and ‘Eternal Winter’ is no exception from that rule. While the magical atmospherics that were in abundance on ‘Winter’ are in slight decline on the band’s latest they definitely are not absent. The dreamy intro of “Chimeres” gives way to one of the most powerful tracks of the album. “Chimeres,” with its effective use of synths and ghostly sound effects, shares a stylistic and tonal kinship to other standout tracks from the band’s discography like “Black Tower” or “Winds of Sorrow.” Adding to the atmosphere of “Chimeres” is a sinister, phantom-like vocal effect that echoes the vocals of Sylvain Auvé—a subtle, yet effective detail that enriches the track as a whole.Where ‘Winter,’ for the most part, was steeped in darkness ‘Eternal Winter’ chooses to travel paths more related to progressive influenced hard rock. The flute heavy “Crossroads” has an epic, classic rock vibe that is fueled by majestic guitar solos, organ, and Auvé’s soulful vocals. The uncharacteristic “From the Cradle to the Grave,” one of the shortest non-instrumental songs written by the band, is dominated by a 70’s style strut that seemingly burns out almost as soon as it starts. “A Light for the Blind” may just be the best representation of Northwinds’ sound. It is a sprawling track that is embedded with moments of catchiness—particularly due to the lead guitar—juxtaposed with sonic explorations to other dimensions. It’s a great track that captures Northwinds doing what they do best—crafting intricate, often emotional tunes that never fail to keep the listener engaged.Northwinds have, impressively, continued their upward trajectory by releasing another stunner in a succession of stellar albums. The band is poised to have an incredible year with the upcoming release of ‘Eternal Winter’ hot on the heels of their killer split 7” with fellow countrymen Marble Chariot. In addition, the vinyl release of their 1995 demo courtesy of metalloscope-music has just been released. ‘Eternal Winter,’ like the rest of Northwinds’ discography, is an enchanting album that is comprised of a multitude of layers. Fans of doom metal and progressive rock will undoubtedly discover and hear a lot to admire in the music of Northwinds and ‘Eternal Winter’ is no exception. An engaging listen from start-to-finish. Highly recommended." - Vertical Chamber Apparatus
    $16.00
  • Debut release from this Finnish progressive/melodic metal band. Definite similarities to Circus Maximus in terms of style although vocalist Markku Kuikka has a midrange style - more Allen or Lande. Album caps off with the 15 minute title track that finds everything coalesce - wicked guitar and keys, full bodied vocals and plenty of hooks. I suspect this may be the beginning of a long successful story...
    $14.00
  • Christina Booth is the charismatic vocalist for British symphonic rock band Magenta.  Her voice has always brought about comparisons to Annie Haslam (and in fact they recorded together).  Christina had a well documented successful battle with breast cancer.  It was during this time that she wrote the material for her second solo album.  The music doesn't have the complexity or full on "prog" nature but she is helped out by members of the prog community including Rob Reed, Chris Fry, JOhn Mitchell, Andy Tillison, and Theo Travis.  It would be difficult to call this commercial music.  I guess they call this adult alternative these days.  Its a great showcase for her wonderful vocal talents and is filled with tons of atmosphere.  Good late night listening.
    $14.00
  • Shame US fans never got to see Eloy perform.  I'm still bummed about their Nearfest cancellation.  On the other hand we have this new 2CD live set to ease the pain.  It was recorded on the last German tour and features an expanded lineup.  This is the first live Eloy album since 1978's masterpiece "Eloy Live".  Material tends to concentrate on Silent Cries & Mighty Echoes to more recent times.  All in all its almost 2 1/2 hours long and complements the first live album to give you a good overview of the band's canon.  Highly recommended."When, after 11 years of complete abstinence, they brought out an album again in 2009 with "Visionary", it was greeted with astonishment. Most assumed that the band had taken their departure from the music business in 1998 with Ocean 2 "The Answer", especially as bandleader, Frank Bornemann, had always stressed that ELOY was a part of the musical culture of the 20th century and no longer fitted into the new millennium.However, he had probably not anticipated how much his band's music would continue to reverberate in the new millennium. The back catalogue reached six-digit sales figures with the remasters versions, and on the internet portals, the tribute to the German prog-rock legend accumulated in unexpected ways. Touched by this appreciation, and impressed by the many years of unremitting worldwide fan-power, the band re-formed, made up entirely from the musicians who had previously influenced the group's music as permanent members. The firm intent of properly saying 'thank you' for so much loyalty finally also brought the ultimate line-up back to the stage. With, for the first time, two guitarists, two keyboardists, bass, drums, two backing singers from the studio sessions and a solo vocalist for the highlights from "The Apocalypse" and "The Tides Return Forever" repertoire, they delivered an impressive retrospective of the band's history on stage. In the storm of enthusiasm every evening in almost consistently sold-out venues, some of the titles often exceeded the studio originals. Cheered on by a euphoric fanbase, the band often outdid themselves making recordings of phenomenal expressive power, which now find their way to the fans as the first and only live audio documentary since 1978. The unique atmosphere which accompanies the experience on stage resurrects the former Spirit of ELOY with emotion and passion, and this has finally led to the band giving this live documentary – offered as a double-CD in a high value 8-page digi-pack with a running time of over 140 minutes - a very special title: REINCARANTION ON STAGEDisc 11. Namaste2. Child Migration3. Paralized Civilization4. Mysterious Monolith5. Age of Insanity6. The Apocalypse7. Silhouette8. Poseidon's Creation9. Time to Turn10. The Sun Song11. Horizons12. IlluminationsDisc 21. Follow the Light2. Awakening of Consciousness3. The Tides Return Forever4. Ro Setau5. Mystery6. Decay of Logos7. Atlantis Agony8. The Bells of Notre Dame9. Thoughts
    $22.00
  • Second album from this outstanding German psychedelic/doom trio.  Nuclear Blast is cornering the market on killer retro 70s inspired hard rock bands.  First was Witchcraft, then Graveyard, and now Orchid and Kadavar.  This German band bears the musical imprint of Black Sabbath on their DNA but not quite to the extent of Orchid.  There is much more of a psychedelic bent to their sound - you can hear the impact that bands like Hawkwind and Guru Guru had on them.  Highly recommended. 
    $13.00
  • "The phrase, "A New Dawn" has become one widely used these days with the ascension of the Obama presidency in the United States, and certainly, that is a breath of fresh air for most of us. However, it’s also a good time for a metal band, with that phrase as a name, to make a serious arrival on the international music scene.A New Dawn isn’t really new. They’ve actually been around since 1998 in one form or another, although they began as a side project. Several demos and one semi serious EP and DVD later, the band has released the title under review here and is primed for a run at the big time.The band is a 6 member group headed up by a duel female lead. That lead, Sanne Kluiters and Jamila Ifzaren do something of an operatic front end. The guitars are provided by Elbert de Hoog, bass by Michel van Beekum and drums are compliments of Rik Bruineman. The final member is Michiel Glas whose responsibilities include vocals and grunting. Poor Michiel has the unenviable task of replacing the lovely Monica Janssen who played bass and was clearly the most impressive female grunter in metal. She was always, for me, a significant interest in this band and will be missed, but, as they say, the show must go on.It should be noted, however, that this CD was actually produced with a different lineup, and Monica is the grunter and bass player here. The additional clean vocals are done by a friend of the band, David van Santen. Willem Cremer performed on guitar and Peter van Toren did drums on this recording. With the completion of the CD, the changes came about, so this is the swan song for Monica. And that’s unfortunate but certainly not devastating. Lineup changes in European bands, unlike many American bands, are like changing your clothes in the morning.Doesn’t matter really who does the grunting, this is a B & B Gothic metal band. That Beauty and the Beast approach serves as the focus of A New Dawn and carries through much of the music presented here. And, as B and B bands go, this one is pretty good. They’re Dutch of course, and utilize a style found in numerous western European bands, even if the composition is a little unique. The sound, however, is pretty much mainstream metal, with a few twists.Falling from Grace opens with a beautiful little piece called Black Lotus, the two female leads doing an operatic harmony over a lovely symphonic background. You get the feeling we’re in for a lovely bit of harmonic Gothic, heavily orchestrated. Something like what we’d hear for a movie about life in the Middle Ages. David van Santen even joins in with a lovely male vocal component to augment this direction. The tome lasts some 1:22. . .. and then things change.As mentioned previously, A New Dawn is Gothic Metal, fairly hard Gothic Metal over a solid guitar base. The vocals, the female vocals anyway, are operatic, but they ride a cushion of heavy guitars to get where they’re going. Living Lie begins this journey, and pretty much introduces the real A New Dawn. And Monica’s grunting provides a highlight to the composition.Arguably, the most interesting song might be the following title, Veil of Charity. It made the Sonic Cathedral release A World of Sirens and gets significant airplay on the radio outlet. The song opens with an interesting guitar line over a metal core. Things heat up fast and flow to the duel female lead, which is juxtaposed against the grunting female vocals. This is, of course, the core of the A New Dawn sound and is probably the best implementation of that sound on the CD. Guitars are always secondary to the vocals with A New Dawn but they cannot be ignored, especially on this title. They are solid and get significant solo time, as well they should.The CD being somewhat new I haven’t been able to get lyrics online. However, the English of singers Kluiters, Ifzaren, Janssen and David van Santen is excellent so you can pretty much understand everything they’re singing. That’s not always the case with European bands, especially as they move further to the east. When you get to the Russians, they quit trying.A New Dawn does most of its work in heavy mode. However, there are exceptions. Wisdom of Hindsight is actually something of an acoustic number, at least at first. Vocals are different as well. The band does a sound like a Medieval Folk song on occasion, and this is one of those numbers. However, even here, the metal comes back at some point, but the movement back and forth is really interesting. There are almost three or four distinct styles here in one song.The acoustic sound carries through on other numbers as well, especially as an intro. A short number, Prelude to a Farwell, uses this technique to serve as a mid point on the CD, almost like an intermission, very beautiful and moving.That midpoint takes us to the second part of the CD, introduced by Kissed Goodbye. Again, the song starts slowly with a moving guitar that takes us to the lead female vocals. It should be pointed out that these vocals are not all that similar and are used differently, even when done at the same time. One is more operatic, the other less so, and they work in different ranges. Very different in the style and effect. Anyway, the slow stuff doesn’t last long, the guitars crank up and the metal goes full tilt.Much of the second part of the CD follows this format, slow and dreamy intros that lead to a crunching guitar guiding the female vocals to their face offs with Monica’s grunting.The final number, Ascension, Part III, is worth mentioning. It’s been a favorite of mine for some time and has video clips on YouTube where you get to see Monica (and the rest of the lineup at that time) in performance. This is one of the songs where the grunting is more up front, the guitars are a bit harder and we get the image of A New Dawn on stage. Of course, the two female vocalists are a delight and the band performs this number in much the same style as they would on stage, there is an electricity to their sound that transcends the recording.I’m sure that, in all respects, the band is every bit as good as ever, but I’m sure going to miss that little brunette bass player with the killer voice. Fortunately, we still have the strong contributions from the two female leads who carry the majority of the load.Oh well, progress is inevitable, and, in this case, we move with the tides. A strong offering from a band we will, no doubt, hear much more from in the future." - Sonic Cathedral
    $17.00
  • New remastered edition gets the full Mark Powell/Esoteric treatment and arrives with one bonus track. Great disc with Richard Sinclair and Mel Collins in the lineup. "Echoes" is an all time classic. Essential.
    $18.00
  • "If we ever needed any further evidence of how thrash lifers Testament completely rule, look no further than this two-disc live album (how often can you say that?), which draws heavily upon their recent releases. And it does rule — hard. With a fun, energetic, raw production sound, the band's enthusiasm shines through loud and clear, and while it's always excellent to hear a few old classics, and here they sound as good as ever, what comes out of this declaration is that the new material is just as memorable, just as thrashing and heavier than ever. Check out songs like the amazing "Native Blood," delivered in an off-the-rails fashion, the blast beats that sounded a bit awkward on the album sitting just right in this context. Dark Roots of Thrash is a shining example of a band that are, surprisingly, at the top of their game late in their career, playing the songs they want to and delivering them with pure thrash metal glory. It's rare to love a live album this much, but such is the power of Testament." - Exclaim
    $29.00
  • What would you call a power trio that veers seamlessly between shredding peaks, jazzy moods, and fat funky grooves? Mörglbl of course! Often compared to Primus meeting Steve Vai, Mörglbl hits like a heavyweight jab and makes you laugh while you bleed! Mörglbl is the punch you don't see coming! Packaged in a limited edition digipak, "Jazz For The Deaf" is the fourth album from the world-renowned French jazz metal trio. This band with the unusual name is led by virtuoso guitarist Christophe Godin. Virtuoso bassist Ivan Rougny is complemented by the double bass of new drummer Aurelien Ouzoulias. With the release of "Jazz For The Deaf", Mörglbl has created an album with cross genre appeal. Fans of shred and fusion Gods like Allan Holdsworth, Steve Vai or Freak Kitchen's Mattias Eklundh will find much to sink their teeth into. After entertaining crowds around the world, Mörglbl performed at Nearfest in 2008. It was the first time in the 10 year history of the festival that an opening act received two encores. This amazing performance sparked a flurry of interest from other festivals, culminating with Mörglbl receiving an invitation to appear at Progday 2009 in Chapel HIll, NC on 9/5/09.
    $13.00