Reviews: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Ascension Theory - Answers
   
Musical Style: Progressive Metal Produced By:
Record Label: Nightmare Country Of Origin: USA
Year Released: 2005 Artist Website: Ascension Theory
Tracks: 10 Rating: 85%
Running Time: 46:04
Ascension Theory - Answers

Ascension Theory is a studio project founded in 2002 by Tim Becker (keyboards) and Leon Ozug (vocals, guitar and bass), two talented musicians who got their start in the progressive metal outfit Aztec Jade.  Departing Aztec Jade in 2001 and 2003 respectively, Becker and Ozug joined forces with drummer Chad Lenig and recorded Ascension Theory’s debut Regeneration in 2002 before following up in 2005 with a sophomore effort entitled Answers.  The album continues to find Ascension Theory moving in progressive metal territory, creating a heavy but melodic sound certain to appeal to fans of Threshold, Stride, Dream Theater, Shadow Gallery, Theocracy and Queensryche.  It is without a doubt that a great deal of melody imbues the material here, the likes of progressive based numbers such as “Passions Of My Heart”, “Lockstep”, “Perfect Plan”, “Saturn’s Reign” and “Answers” all standing out with their catchy choruses.  A more straightforward hard rock direction, on the other hand, is taken on the goth influenced “The Way Of Death” while the ballad “To Be Content” highlights a softer side to the bands songwriting skills. 

Ozug contributes a clean and pure but passionate lead vocal style that brings out the best in the bands melodic brand of progressive metal.  A female vocalist in Beverly, however, lends her talents to “The Way Of Death” and “Decisions” (a duet with Ozug).  Additional vocals are contributed by Mike Miseno while A.J. Simiele provides for narration and screams.  As a guitarist, Ozug lays down an abundance of crunchy riffs but chooses to pick his spots on lead guitar, cutting loose best on two of the albums stronger tracks in “Saturn’s Reign” and “Answers”.  At this point it must be mentioned that Ascension Theory lacks some of the instrumental prowess that other progressive rock/metal acts bring to the table.  No, the musicianship here is not to be found wanting; rather the band does not cut loose with as many of the “extended jam sessions” and “sweeping instrumental sections” that often characterize the progressive genre.  Please note that in no way am I offering this as a criticism but rather an observation instead.  (Actually, it is something I find to be quite refreshing and a nice change of pace.)  Finally, Becker must be commended for the manner in which his work on keyboards accentuates and provides the needed backbone to the quality material here.

Production values are quite professional in reflecting the needed amount of polish and refinement.

Lyrically, Answers is a concept album set in a fictional world where humanity lives both on a single city on the earth and a colony on the moon; however, in time the two become isolated and two completely different societies.

“Passions Of My Heart” gets underway to an orchestral keyboard solo that is soon joined by a crisp rhythm guitar.  Sweeping ahead at a driving mid-tempo pace, the song breaks out with an abundance of splendor for a chorus guaranteed to pull you in as a result of its stately ardor.  “Passions Of My Heart” talks about the need to make a change:

I have never been content
With ordinary life
The city bores my mind
It drains the essence from my life
Stagnation of my soul
Spirit is next to go
I’ll fight to make a change
Or waste away in my defeat

The power that I hold
Opens a door for me
My father’s countenance
Will pave the way for victory 

A balanced amalgamation of rhythm guitar and piano introduces “Lockstep”.  After the rhythm guitar fades from the mix at the start of the songs first verse, it returns in time to shoulder an energetically driven chorus delivered in prevailing up-tempo fashion.  A keyboard solo opens an instrumental section highlighted by a bluesy stretch of lead guitar work.

The instrumental section at the start of the dramatic “Perfect Plan” is shored up by keyboards until a metal-edged rhythm guitar steps into the mix.  The song proceeds to advance through its first verse with a flood of guitar driven impetus, breaking out in an epic manner for an infectious chorus backed by a trace of vocal harmonies.  The message here touches upon our choices and the motivations behind them:

Politics is always a game of give and take
But you don’t have to live with choices that you make
Your words reveal the motivations in your heart
You have gotten used to
Serving your own needs
I can not change a mind made up
I need to find someone like me 

A heavy duty guitar riff urges “Saturn’s Reign” through its first verse as a gentle hint of keyboards decorates the background.  Picking up in pace as the rhythm guitar moves to a forward place in the mix, the song gains a hold of a catchy chorus in which a grandiose environment is put in place.  Keyboard and guitar solos lead the way through an extensive instrumental section.

The keyboard based ballad “To Be Content” slows the album to a near crawl.  A lush atmosphere is established as a piano gracefully carries the song its full extent, the compelling melody only enhanced by the smooth sounding feel to Ozug’s vocal delivery.  “To Be Content” focuses on exactly that:

I tried so hard to sleep last night but rest eluded me, so many problems on my mind
If I knew what I know now I might not have begun
I don’t know how to turn back now
In this life I lead, even when all things are right there’s always something else my soul will reach out for
I can’t understand
Why I’m not glad to be content

“The Way Of Death” is the first track to feature Beverly Luse on lead vocals.  The song actually proves one of the albums heavier pieces, a moody and almost goth-like feeling exuded as a forward swell of rhythm guitar drives it to a chorus accented by just the right amount of adulating keyboards.  A fast fingered guitar solo stands in line with the songs up-tempo aura.

Luse and Ozug perform a duet on “Decisions”.  The sublime keyboards initiating the song are soon superseded by a choppy rhythm guitar, an abundance of plodding mid-tempo initiative leading the way until a flowing chorus in which Luse provides backing vocals is obtained.  An instrumental section carried by a blend of piano and ethereal lead guitar work closes out the songs final two minutes.  Beautiful.  “Decisions” is aptly named:

A question, a problem
Decision, a chance to live
I need to believe you
It’s hard to comprehend

I hope for survival
It’s what we all strive for
To leave home and I join you
It all seems impossible

“End Game” begins quietly and ominously before a chugging wall of rhythm guitar kicks in.  After the song grinds through its first and second verse in gritty fashion, an up-tempo environment is put in place for the determined but hook driven chorus that follows.  A blend of rhythm guitar and keyboards carries things over their final minute.  The lyrics to “End Game” almost come across apocalyptic in nature:

Everything is clear – end is coming near
Play your final part
Truth reveals just what you are

Idols that you once held dear will
Not survive the coming fire
All your faith in man made things
Won’t save you from a grave defeat   

The instrumental “Refractions” reflects an almost jazz fusion feel.  The song proves quite the slow paced number with a piano carrying its full length as Ozug decorates the scene with his emotional and at times bluesy soloing.

“Answers”, a seven minute progressive metal masterpiece, commences to a majestic blend of piano and rhythm guitar that slowly and gradually picks up in pace.  The rhythm guitar crashes to the front of the mix as the song quickly sweeps through its first verse, an even transition made as it acquires an immaculate chorus that in the end asks several relevant questions:

Know the answers, know the cause – Cause affects the answers that we seek
One day I hope to understand – How these things in life all relate
Is there only one true answer?  Or do we choose the ones we like?
So many visions of what’s real – I hope someday I will see one

A two and a half minute long instrumental section begins to a keyboard solo that gives way to a lengthy run of radiant work on lead guitar.  The songs final verse sums things up best:

The city built upon this land
Will rise and fall in its own time
Forces work that we don’t understand
Events unfold by unseen plan
A house divided will not stand
Strong winds will send it crashing down
Foundation built upon the sand
The waves will wash it all away

Review by: Andrew Rockwell

Track Listing: “Passions Of My Heart” (4:25), “Lockstep” (3:12), “Perfect Plan” (4:02), “Saturn’s Reign” (5:50), “To Be Content” (3:35), “The Way Of Death” (4:08), “Decisions” (5:29), “End Game” (5:05), “Refractions” (3:10), “Answers” (7:05)

Musicians
Leon Ozug – Lead Vocals, Guitars & Bass
Tim Becker – Keyboards
Chad Lenig – Drums

Guest Musicians
Beverly Luse – Lead Vocals
Mike Miseno – Additional Vocals
A.J. Simiele – Narration & Screams

 

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