Heavy metal newcomers Ascalon have introduced themselves to the world by unleashing this scorching debut, Reflections. Out on No Remorse Records, this is a fine album by the band from Manchester in the north of England.
The sound of this album is the bastard lovechild of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal and more up to date modern metal. Indeed, the album artwork has a definite NWOBHM look about it. Reflections is solid as a rock, heavy as hell and has ripping riffs. There are cracking solos all over the place and songs worthy of artists who have been around a lot longer.
The band consists of Matt Gerrard on vocals/guitars, Chris Marsh on guitars/tambourine, Alex Varley on bass and Vince Scott on drums. Chris, in particular, makes me feel really old as he only looks about 12 years of age on their Facebook pics, even though they are a couple of years old.
Reflections is the amalgamation of 3 songs from a demo recorded in 2013 plus 5 new tracks.
What stands out on this album is the unashamed use of lengthy solo runs but more so is the way Matt Gerrard sounds like metal icon Blackie Lawless. I don’t know if W.A.S.P. toured the north of England in the late 90’s and Lawless enjoyed some extracurricular activity, but I’m convinced Matt and Blackie are related….
“Speed Daze” gets us off to a rollicking start with pace, power and hot licks. Vince Scott shows his talent by maintaining a breakneck speed and adding his personality to proceedings.
Onward and upward to the title track “Reflections”, which maintains the galloping pace and by now you realize what this band is about; hard melody, heavy guitars and screaming solos. No 10-second twiddling for these guys, they wallow in their love of guitar solos and I’m right in there with them.
Having said that, the solos fit in superbly with the songs, they don’t go off on a tangent and always return to where they belong.
If it is possible, Ascalon increase the pace on “Red Leather” but the feel of the album is still there. Yet more ‘facemelting’ (copyright D. Meniketti) guitar is present and the rock goes on.
“Outlaws Hymn” follows where the band gives us an acoustic/electric instrumental treat. I’m not usually a fan of instrumentals, but this changes my mind, with a passing nod towards Iron Maiden’s “The Ides Of March”.
It’s back to eyeballs-out metal on “The Enforcer”, which begins with a brilliant guitar piece and cracks along at a fair old lick. This track starts off fast and manages somehow to get faster. I’ve got a right sweat on now. The song ends as it began, with top drawer guitaring. A great, great track.
Reflections’ last 3 tracks are those from the 2013 demo, and “Steel Nights” is the first. A solid track, with Matt Gerrard at his Blackie-est, but this is probably because the song is a touch similar to songs W.A.S.P. might have written.
Ascalon then hail themselves in the self-titled “Ascalon” and so they damn well should. A fist-pumping self-indulgent treat is on offer here and they’ve got me.
“Vigilante” brings this top quality album to a fitting close. More of the same top notch catchy tunes with power, pace and stunning soloing.
It would be quite patronizing to say this a top drawer debut because this would stand up against most albums, never mind just debuts. I sincerely hope they get the coverage and publicity they deserve, as this is a great album.