What have I found in my possession?? After going over my daily routine of facebook feeds, I find myself intrigued by a friend’s post. This has made his top 10 CD’s of 2015 and knowing we have similar taste in great music I clicked the link to watch the video on YouTube. After that one play I had to dig in and find out who this band is and where in Europe are they from. Well I assumed wrong. With a sound like this and being a fan of symphonic metal, gothic metal, and melodic rock, who would think that the band Ascendia are from Toronto Canada.
Starting off as a live metal cover band of pop songs it was time to get serious for their audience. In 2013, Ascendia found themselves earning a slot on the bill for the Toronto Rockstar Mayhem Festival with bands like Mastodon, Amon Amarth, Children Of Bodom and Five Finger Death Punch. Brothers Billy and John Lov have been performing together since their early teens, inspired by 70’s-80’s metal bands to the more recent metal bands like Nightwish and Kamelot. Also in 2013 with a growing fan base, the steps to their debut album started. Knowing they want to take their time and develop a sound that is rare in the Canadian market of musicians this was almost 2 years in the making. The long awaited debut album The Lion And The Jester was self-released by the band in February 2015, with new tracks and the bonus track of fan favourite “Starlit Eyes“. The five piece band consists of Nick Sakal – vocals, John Lov – guitar/vocals, Billy Lov – drums, Maestro – symphonics, John Abanador – bass.
“At The End Of It All” is the first song and a great introduction. Sakal‘s voice is so clean, sharp, and concise to bring in the heavy riffs of John Lov‘s guitar, with Sakal‘s vocals having such control throughout the song. The different levels of his vocals from soft to rough is incredible. The heavy pounding of the drum, bass and guitar I had to sit back and get ready for this Canadian ride.
Next up is “Remember Me” and bringing in a little more symphonics. The total mix of this band with different influences throughout the track makes this a memorable piece of musical art.
Excited to hear the next track as I can’t believe what I am hearing. “Moonchild” is a modern song with different textures of styles. Once again Sakal showing different levels of vocals utilizing his upper octave skills with clear and concise screams added for extra texture.
“Demon Eyes” reminds me of why I got into bands like Blind Guardian and Kamelot and this style of music. Pure musicianship and talent. Not just getting into the studio and putting out a rock album. What I really like about the guitar solo in this track is that it is still filled with the rest of the band playing especially the drumming of Billy Lov.
Time to slow things down with “Last Forever“. Maestro is strong on the keys and the beautiful clean vocals of Sakal starting this song. Lyrically a great story and with the rest of the band slowly kicking in and bringing in the powerful overall sound. This would be a great track at a live show. Like many symphonic bands bringing in a choir and orchestra would really be a masterpiece.
“No More Tales To Tell” picks things back up and the symphonics really add to the strength of this song. Songs like this I can see being shared around the world via the internet and bringing this band to a level they deserve. Traveling the world playing so many of the biggest festivals.
“Why Angels Cry” is an instrumental with that classic symphonic metal vibe. It’s only over a minute long and has an achingly beautiful sound that leads into the next track “Faded Away“. Anywhere from a straight forward rocking track to heavy guitars and a symphonic sensation. I absolutely love the way they have mixed it all into this song.
“My Last Song” brings out a heavier sound and you can really hear and feel that double bass drum. Even though it is not the same drum kit on stage, the double kick pedals will give that single bass drum a beating.
The Lion and the Jester slows down again with “The Song That You Deserved“. A duet with female vocalist Christina Lov, cousin of John and Billy. Christina‘s pristine vocals help bring this band to new levels. The keyboard playing of Maestro is just brilliant.
Getting close to the end, we have the title track “The Lion And The Jester” coming in at a hair under eight minutes. The acoustic guitar playing is so crisp and clean leading up to a musical play taking you deep into the story. Symphonic metal at its finest. The violin playing leading into the thunder sound of drumming with the orchestral sound truly makes this a musical journey.
The end is here with the fan favourite song “Starlit Eyes (Bonus Track)“. A great rocking acoustic start that brings in the rest of the band throughout this piece. A great ending to an amazing CD.
I really believe if this band was from Europe they would be signed and playing the big festivals around the world. I don’t know of any Canadian band who plays this style of music at the level Ascendia does, or very rare in North America. Any labels out there for this musical style, don’t look away. Get on board as this is an unsigned band that with some good direction will go far.
With some changes after the release of The Lion and the Jester, the current line-up is Nick Sakal – vocals, John Lov – guitar/vocals, Billy Lov – drums and symphonics, Stephen Kerr – bass.
Look for some shows in 2016. I know I will be checking out their live performance ASAP!!
Shawn “Animalize” Irwin