ARK ASCENT – Downfall (2019)
British based Progressive Metal new band ARK ASCENT is releasing their debut record “Downfall” this month. First formed in 2011 by guitarist Jack Kirby, there was a name and line-up changes in the middle, now completed with stupendous SIRENIA drummer Michael Brush, current DGM bassist Andrea Arcangeli, and former SHADOWKEEP vocalist Rogue Marechal.
As you see, all very experienced musicians, and the result is a strong, really solid collection of songs not limited to this specific genre.
Some debut releases could end below the initial the expectations. In this case, debut album can mean a group of already-established musicians getting together and deciding to try something new. And there’s a whole bunch of talent here.
Though Ark Ascent is billed as a progressive metal band, I tend to think of them as leaning more towards traditional melodic metal where the progressive arrangements are extended. You have powerful clean vocals, a tight rhythm section (but not overblown), sharo riffs and solos, and a guest keyboardist adding the necessary touches.
Opener “Arrival” features some really mellow keyboard playing accompanied by fast pace drumming. The guitars serve as the balance between the two, and it starts to tell a story with all the instruments combined.
The next song “Point of No Return” has a really nice feel to it, heavy but extrmely melodic. The sudden speed changes throughout, tremolo picking, and the double kick pedals from the drums are just some of the many things going on in this song.
“Sanctuary” begins with a really groovy riff then extends into what feels like outer space, thanks to the ‘alien synths entering the song. The guitars are phenomenal in this track
“Farewell” starts out and ends with isolated piano lines and emotional singing from Marechal, whic at places reminds me of Jorn Lande here..
Title track “Downfall” really puts the ’80s hair metal / hard rock vibe into it, mixed with traditional metal in the vein of Pretty Maids. It could make for a ballad one day. It has that sort of that, catchy sing along sound to it.
“Innocence Lost” starts with calming guitar chords and then progressively speeds up when the vocals splash. The singing fits perfectly as well.
The final track on the album, “The End Of Time” is made for a great ending. It’s full of sublime and awe-inspiring grooves. The track starts with some very eerie dissonant notes and builds up to a calm relaxing melody in the verse. Then changes to full dynamics of passion infused vocals with power chords echoing behind them.
On their debut CD “Downfall” ARK ASCENT mostly follows a fairly straightforward template: the choruses are huge and catchy affairs, most songs are upbeat and energetic, and Marechal navigates vocal duties with a distinctly progressive flair, dipping into falsettos for moments that are meant to be especially impactful.
The are not a one trick pony though. “Innocence Lost,” for example, incorporates acoustic guitars in a sobering slow number that doesn’t quite reach ballad status, while “The Aftermath” sees the band embracing prog as much as it can; jazzy pianos, bass solos, and the album’s only synth solo decorate a wild and strangely catchy tune that’s one of the most enjoyable ones here.
In terms of Progressive Metal, ARK ASCENT definitely fits the category, but I would also say they are more ’80s / 90s melodic metal oriented with a touch of hard rock / glam / US metal.
All songs are strong, musicianship is top notch and production / mix really well rounded.
02. Point Of No Return
04. Darkest Hour
08. Innocence Lost
09. The Aftermath
10. Closer To Heaven
11. The End Of Time
Rogue Marechal – Vocals (Shadoweep)
Jack Kirby – Guitars
Andrea Arcangeli – Bass (DGM)
Michael Brush – Drums (Sirenia)
Katia Filipovic – Keyboards