I recall some of my conclusions about Divine Ascension's debut album As The Truth Appears. Mostly I recall that, in the end, I was ambivalent. A female-fronted band that plays a mixture of symphonic, progressive, and power metal is hardly novel in this day. But they may have raised their own bar with their second album, Liberator.
Some thing's have not changed. Divine Ascension's metal sound is still grand and bombastic, thanks much to the sharp riffage, symphonic layer, and the pummeling rhythm section. However, I hear a greater depth to their arrangements, more complexity. Dawn Brings No Mercy and Liberator are two notable accomplishments. Though definitely not yet in the same league, Divine Ascension, in some odd way, reminds me of Dream Theater or Transatlantic only in a heavier power metal context. Some of this may come from the abundance of keyboard solos throughout. They're even more definitive than the guitar solos, which, for this guitar fan, is disappointment. But they are there, a nice one at the end of Sorrow's Sacfrice.
Another disappointment, perhaps rather a quizzical conundrum, is Jennifer Borg's vocal presence. Again, recalling the first album, she had this strong and viable presence. This time around you can barely hear or understand her, like she's out of her depth. I can't believe that she isn't up to the task. Some of this could be from the mix and mastering, allowing the bombastic power metal to beat her presence down. Ultimately, excepting lighter moments and segues, it takes some sincere focus to grasp her participation. Alternatively, there are Red Sky and Memoria's Longing, the lighter songs, where Ms. Borg displays the presence we all hope for.
In the end, much like the first recording, as I proceeded through this album, I couldn't help finding that imp of ambivalence jumping to my shoulder and whispering in my ear. That aforementioned combination of riffage, keys, and thumping drums seemed to make every song run together. Like Borg's vocals, you need some focus to pick up on the prog nuances and meanderings. So is Liberator better than the last? Perhaps so. If only that the band, in their own context, is improving upon themselves. On the other hand, those who love female fronted symphonic and progressive power metal will probably go ape shit crazy over it. And that's a good thing for Divine Ascension.
Those who love female fronted symphonic and progressive power metal will probably go ape shit crazy over Divine Ascension's Liberator.
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