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
  • Iced Earth's tenth album features a new vocalist - Stu Block, formerly of Into Eternity. This digipak comes with 3 bonus tracks a sticker and fold-out poster."Iced Earth's revolving door of vocalists continues on their newest release Dystopia. Matt Barlow's second go-around with the band ended earlier this year, and his replacement is Canadian singer Stu Block (Into Eternity).Over the years Iced Earth has cultivated a thrashy power metal sound, which is intact on Dystopia. The songs are dramatic and grandiose, packed with melody and potent riffs. The title track gets the proceedings underway in fine fashion, a very catchy and bold track. After a mellow start, “Anthem” kicks in and becomes appropriately enough, anthemic.Iced Earth has had a legacy of outstanding vocalists, including Barlow and Tim “Ripper” Owens. Block continues that tradition. He has a wide range, and really hits the high notes on songs like “Boiling Point.” He brings a varied performance, and delivers the lyrics convincingly no matter if it's an aggressive lower pitched section, traditional singing or belting it out. He is able to dial it back a notch when needed as well, such as on “Anguish Of Youth.”Like Block's vocal performance, Dystopia as a whole is a varied and diverse release. From ballads to bombastic power metal to harder edged material, Iced Earth covers a lot of bases. It's also much more streamlined than their last couple of albums, with 10 songs clocking it at about 45 minutes.Lineup changes can have a negative effect on a band, but Iced Earth has shown over the years it doesn't phase them at all. That's also the case with this CD. Block fits in extremely well, and Dystopia finds Iced Earth losing no momentum. It may have even given them a little boost." - About.com
    $6.00
  • The DVD features the new video for lead track ‘Drive Home’ along with the video for ‘The Raven That Refused To Sing’, both directed by Jess Cope. It also includes four tracks recorded live in Frankfurt during the recent tour.  In addition, the DVD features audio recordings of two previously unreleased tracks, ‘The Birthday Party’ and an orchestral version of ‘The Raven That Refused To Sing’.‘The Birthday Party’ was recorded in the LA at the same sessions as the tracks that made up the album while the version of ‘The Raven That Refused To Sing’ is a new mix that strips the track back to just the orchestra and vocals. These tracks are also featured on the CD, along with the audio from the live tracks and an edit of ‘Drive Home’. The set is packaged in a ‘mini-LP’ sleeve pac.
    $16.00
  • 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
  • HDCD remaster available in the US again.
    $15.00
  • Nuova Idea was one of the early Italian prog bands - in fact they were more of a "proto-prog" ensemble.  It was organ driven music perhaps closer to hard rock bands like Deep Purple and Uriah Heep but with some prog moves as well.  Their albums are highly collectible.Recently, founding member Paolo Siani reformed the band and recorded a new album called Castle, Wings, Stories & Dreams.  This is a live DVD that features material drawn from that album as well as some of the classic Nuova Idea material of the early 70s.  Further - you get live footage from 1971-73 culled from the archives of RAI TV!
    $23.00
  • I'm not sure I understand the marketing of this in North America. Although it was simultaneously released in Europe along with its companion disc The Wicked Symphony, NB America decided to split them up here."Avantasia are no strangers to the grandiose, as evidenced by their ambitious Metal Opera series and their affinity of and dexterity with eloquently placing guest musicians in their songs. They've now outdone themselves with two separate but complimentary studio albums - Angel of Babylon and 2010's The Wicked Symphony. This epic rock opera spans two full albums and brings the listener further into their fantastical otherworld they've come to be known for. The Wicked Symphony has done quite well in the US, and now fans can complete the epic story! Frontman/songwriter Tobias Sammet (also of Edguy) has invited a who's who of rock and metal musicians to join him, including Jorn Lande (Yngwie Malmsteen), Russell Allen (Symphony X), Jon Oliva (Savatage), Eric Singer (KISS), Bruce Kulick (KISS) and Michael Kiske (Helloween)!"
    $13.00
  • 2014 verson comes with a bonus CD with alternate versions, demos, and b-sides."Tim Bowness & Steven Wilson return with No-Man’s eagerly awaited sixth official album, and the band’s first since 2003’s atmospheric Together We’re Stranger.Featuring the sweetly hypnotic Wherever There Is Light, the warped dynamics of Pigeon Drummer, the outsider lament of All Sweet Things, and the subtly evolving explorations of the uplifting semi-orchestral epic Truenorth, Schoolyard Ghosts reveals the band taking its accessible and ambitious blend of Post-Rock and Singer-songwriter influences to an even more focused and personalised place than before.A distinctive combination of beautifully detailed songwriting, haunting melodies and inventively cinematic production.Representing the band’s most consistent and mature work to date, the album looks set to build and improve upon the success of predecessors Returning Jesus and Together We’re Stranger.Guest musicians include Porcupine Tree’s Colin Edwin and Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree/King Crimson), Bruce Kaphan (ex-American Music Club/Red House Painters), Pat Mastelotto (King Crimson), Dave Stewart (arranging The London Session Orchestra) & Theo Travis (David Sylvian/Nine Horses)"
    $16.00
  • "Danish legends PRETTY MAIDS never achieved the success they rightfully deserve. They have been releasing amazing material since their inception in 1981. Their catalog is incredibly consistent and jaw dropping. Their records “Red Hot and Heavy”, “Future World” and 2010s “Pandemonium” ranks up there with some of the best material of the last 30 years in Rock and Metal. Their latest record “Motherland”, released through Italy’s Frontiers Records is another heavy melodic masterpiece.2010s release “Pandemonium” was such an amazing record that the thought of following it up was a concern not only for the band but fans and critics alike. Everyone can breathe a sigh of relief as they have done it again as “Motherland” captures PRETTY MAIDS at their best. Like all PRETTY MAIDS releases the songwriting is outstanding and every song is remarkably strong.Ronnie Atkins is an amazing soulful singer who seems to get better with age. His unique blend of melody and raspiness is unmatched and his voice is one of a kind. Founding guitarist Ken Hammer blends acrobatic guitar playing with a sense of melody that fits his songs brilliantly and is another unsung hero that can play with precision and emotion.Jacob Hansen’s production is crisp and jumps off the speakers. Returning to work with the band after the success of 2010s “Pandemonium” shows the partnership still is the perfect pairing. The mix is layered, separated and Hansen is quickly becoming the go to producer in Rock and Metal.First single “Mother of All Lies”, “Why So Serious?” and the title track show the band perfecting their heavier side. The title track is an up-tempo pounder that grooves, crushes and the chorus is pure perfection. The keyboards incorporate a subtle arpeggio sequence that backs Atkins as he sings a melody that is infectious. “Why So Serious?” is a haunting captivating chugger that blends melody with syncopated riffing, the biggest headbanger on the record.While “Sad to See You Suffer”, “Bullet For You” and the excellent “Wasted” is the perfect counterbalance and shows off their melodic essence. “Bullet For You” showcases a tender Atkins at his best. The harmonies are luscious and fill out the vocals beautifully. “Wasted” closes the record and does an excellent job of blending Morten Sandager’s keyboard playing into the songwriting. Again, the melodies dominate and paint the perfect landscape. All of these songs have amazing choruses that will stick in your head long after the record is over. Ever since their cover of John Sykes “Please Don’t Leave Me”; Pretty Maids are destined to play the rock ballad. They nail it.30 years into their career, “Motherland” finds PRETTY MAIDS unbelievably at their creative peak. Not too many bands are writing some of their strongest material thirteen albums into their career. Surprisingly on par with the fantastic “Pandemonium”, it is time for PRETTY MAIDS to be catapulted into the spotlight and be rewarded for their remarkable career. Let's hope that they have another thirteen albums left in them to compose because they have found their creative groove. “Motherland” contains all of the attributes that make PRETTY MAIDS outstanding. I can only hope that now is the time for them to launch a proper North American tour." - Metal Temple
    $16.00
  • Justin Greaves continues to churn the lineup but the core sound of Crippled Black Phoenix remains the same.  Vocals are now helmed by Daniel Änghede and he's quite good.  Not sure why no one can hold down the fort at the microphone for more than one album but Greaves keeps finding quality voices.The sound of CBP is a modern twist on vintage Pink Floyd.  A mash up of post rock and old school prog rock.  No Mellotrons here but lots of splashes of organ at just the right time that will remind you of Richard Wright.  Contemporary but old all at the same time.  That's the enigma of Cripple Black Phoenix and what keeps me coming back for more, album after album.  Highly recommended.(Oh - apologies about the price.  The band is signed to Mascot Records, who for reasons unknown to either the band or their management, do not give CBP's albums a US release.  This is an expensive imported digipak)
    $21.00
  • 2CD limited edition mediabook features a bonus CD with 1 extra track as well as 5 acoustic versions."Beer soaked and battered from the epic battle with the Terrorsquid, Captain Bowes and his merry band of Scottish pirates were able to proceed further northbound. The quest for gold and desire for plundering alcohol was too strong, especially in these days when the golden age of piracy was nearing its end. However, with enough energy as men in their mid-20's could muster, the buccaneers "scraped the barrel" yet again for new innovative ideas to add to the folkified brand of metallic pirate songwriting. With nothing to lose....the band fuels the most fun of the adventures to date.Following in the footsteps of men like Francois l'Olonnais, who ate a fucking heart, or Jean Lafitte, who told King George to suck it, or even Blackbeard's mentor, Benjamin Hornigold, who just didn't give a shit, Bowes, Evans, Murdock, Alcorn and Vernon relish in the spoils of others....stealing their rum, turning ships into cannon fodder, and calling out the Spanish and Japanese bastards that turned them into peg legs. Sailing the high seas like the days of yore isn't an easy task in the 21st century, so they get their fair share of weird looks, critical analysis citing stupid silliness and comparisons to Jack Sparrow. Pirates care not, they take and steal.This volume of adventures includes a new round of war, silliness, and mishaps. There's pompous and overbearing keyboards (that's not a bad thing when it comes to these lads), ridiculously engaging choruses, the occasional black metal screech (from Elliot Vernon) and bizarre speed changes that really harken back to the "golden age" of hardcore punk a la Attitude Adjustment, Ludichrist/Scatterbrain, Agnostic Front, and The Meatmen with that hallmark metallic edge. Songs like "Wooden Leg" and "Surf Squid Warfare" are nearly straight up punk, again another hallmark of Alestorm releases. As for production, it's Lasse Lammert, so expect perfection and he delivers.The single biggest "change" with this release is that the fun side is ratcheted up quite a bit more. I've never heard a collection of songs that are so perfect for the band's already stellar live shows. Oddly, the most fun comes in the form of the Taio Cruz cover "Hangover," the controversial hip hop song that sounds way more like a normal Alestorm song than a Top 40 megahit. It so suits the band's live image that it easily is my favorite song on the album, though I wouldn't be shocked if it was met with utter hatred. It compliments the first single "Drink" even more than the "ironic" before and after title effect. "Magnetic North" is the first song since Running Wild's "Jennings Revenge" that truly makes you feel like you are on the high seas.Alestorm clearly isn't for everyone. You either love them or hate them, mostly having to do with whether you decide to accept the "old pirate bullshit." I stand by my plea that metal needs bands like Alestorm, if only to immerse oneself in the cheesy silliness of life. If you've seen the band live, or Bowes' other equally silly fun power metal act Gloryhammer, you cannot help fist pumping or waving a drink. This album is even more fun than Tobias Sammet's new Edguy release. Drink up mateys...the Golden Age won't last forever!Highs: The most fun pirate album EVER.....Lows: ....if you like that sort of thing. Alestorm has it's haters, and they will be out in droves with this one.Bottom line: Alestorm scrapes the barrel yet again....and a new "sunrise on the Golden Age" is seen on the horizon." - Metal Underground 
    $16.00
  • "Progressive Power Metal was a genre popularized by titans such as ICED EARTH and NEVERMORE, combining the technicality, speed and fantastical lyrics of power, and the complexity and maturity of Prog. TRAGODIA, a Progressive Power Metal band from Italy, have proved once again why the genre is in such a strong position in the metal world, and why it is nigh-faultless. Writing music that exudes heavy influence from the aforementioned bands, TRAGODIA add their own brand of catchiness and groove to make it their own. After all, the whole point of a progressive band is to be progressive and push genre boundaries.Their new album, "Mythmaker", contains almost all of the great qualities of such an album: it's heavy, it's melodic, it's progressive, it's catchy, it's heavy, it's groovy, it's…  Heavy. It is by no means calm and jazzy, such as some of the work from the penultimate DREAM THEATER. In the mixing, the heavily over-driven guitars, and the drums, are at the forefront, adding vertebrae to the heavyweight backbone that drives this album. "A Cry Among the Stars", the opening, and one of my favorite song on the album, begins with an epic buildup reminiscent of SERENITY, cuts in with riffage worthy of neck snapping headbanging which paves the way for verses that contain an obvious DREAM THEATER note of trippy syncopation. Lucas Meloni, proves to have some vocal versatility, often switching between majestic, powerful notes, and Thrash-like yells. The twin guitarists have already proven, in the song's solo, that they are capable of an incredible dual-axe attack. "The Oracle" is one of the heaviest tracks on the album with crushing riffage all around, supplemented by guitar harmony that is on a Scandinavian level; best solo on the album, and there are many to choose from. "A Temple in Time" is a relatively chilled-out track in comparison, with an incredibly catchy guitar / keyboard harmony. I am hearing a lot of old FIREWIND in this track. The next track, "Wisdom in the Meadows of Sorrow" comes across as a highly versatile track, combining riffage reminiscent of AMON AMARTH, and the wails of JUDAS PRIEST; overall, this creates an incredibly driving track. "Tidal Waves of Greatness" is exactly that; smooth, yet anxious transitions between acoustic passages and grandiose and dramatic choruses. "Once In Arcadia" is another dominating heavyweight with riffage that is not only devastating, but also extremely catchy; very reminiscent of IN FLAMES; another standout track for me. "The Stone and the Idol" is the longest track on the record, though only capping out at 6:21. It starts with an allusion to yet even more epicenes with a tasteful symphonic intro, and leads into extremely groovy riffage, and ends with the best outro riff on the entire record."Born Under Niobe" may be constituted as the heaviest track, which is definitely saying something. The song begins with a downright battery and harsh, thrashy vocals, and riffage so heavy that leaves your brain pulsing with the force of the kicks. The chorus' vocal melody is extremely catchy, and Meloni proves his excellent vocal capabilities. It leaves you completely unprepared for a repeat of the previous bombard, and soon we hear a classic gallop passage that leaves one with the urge to windmill the beards off that the song has just made us grow. "Mythmaker" is an interesting track, opening with an unexpected tapping bass solo that paves the way for some pounding, driving groove riffage that constitutes the majority of the song, and leads seamlessly into the fantastic instrumental, "The Weeping Rock Of Seriphus". Arguably, this song doubles as both an outro and an extension of "Mythmaker", concluding the album in a dramatic, lengthy fashion. Finally, the bonus track, "Downfall Of The Ancients"; I struggle to see why this song was left out as a bonus track, for it most definitely deserves to be on the record. The atmospheric keyboard tracking is absolutely gorgeous, and complements the song very fittingly; with the rugged vocal work, combines to make a highly engaging track.To sum up this work of metal mastery, TRAGODIA are simply one of the reasons Progressive and Power Metal are my two favorite genres of Metal, and do their home country of Italy proud; absolutely deserving of more publicity, and I believe would make an unforgettable live performance." - Metal Temple
    $14.00
  • Tremendous pedigree follows this new Swedish band. Dionysus was put together by Johnny Ohlin, guitarist from the late lamented Nation, and drummer Ronny Milianowicz late of Sinergy. Fronting the quintet is Olaf Hayer who has sung on Luca Turilli's solo projects. The album was produced by Edguy's Tobias Sammet and mixed by Tommy Newton (Helloween and Ark). This is well crafted melodic power metal with touches of speed and neoclassical guitar. To my ears this sounds like Angra or perhaps a stripped down version of Rhapsody - it's more direct and less bombastic. I was a big fan of Nation so it's great to hear Johnny Ohlin playing again.
    $12.00
  • Deluxe digipak version comes with a bonus NTSC DVD featuring "The Making Of Trust".
    $15.00