Avalon Steel – Ascension

June 24, 2014 in Reviews by SpaceKev

Avalon Steel COVERAvalon SteelAscension (2014)
Reviewed by SpaceKev

I am not going to say that music has reached an apex, but it seems to me that originality in new music and new bands has more or less plateaued. I know there are many who would and will take my comment as an offense against humanity, but that’s the cross that they have to bear for for thinking that they live at the height of civilization. However, what I do find quite interesting and absolutely refreshing these days are new bands embracing classic sounds. I don’t mean that I can hear influences in these bands’ music, but rather that their songwriting and overall sound could have been pulled here from 25-plus years ago. It’s as if they hopped aboard the T.A.R.D.I.S. back in 1981 and got dropped off in the 2010 decade.

Avalon Steel is very much a NWOBHM sort of band, with a lot of traditional metal elements thrown in. There are only three songs, running for approximately 14 minutes, on its brand new EP Ascension, so the music goes by quite quickly. I am a big fan of EPs, but I prefer at least 4 songs. I understand there are always budget constraints, so I think that if there were only going to be 3 studio recorded originals, a fourth song could be added to an EP from a board mix from a live show of another song, either previously released or a new one, or something recorded during rehearsals from a portable recording device such as a ZOOM H1. That way there is some additional time added to the EP, and more of an indication of what a band is capable of, without the band having to spend an arm and a leg in production. At the end of the day, and all thinking out loud aside, I am just happy for new music, so I’ll settle for three Avalon Steel originals.

Listening to Ascension, I was thrown back a few decades, and I didn’t mind it at all. The opening song, “The Winter King”, is by far my favorite on the EP. I wasn’t sure what to expect because when the song starts, there are just slow paced power chords punctuated with cymbal crashes. My apprehension didn’t last long, because a single guitar comes in to play a lonely melody amongst the ongoing introduction. Once the verse gets going, you are in very familiar territory with a chugging gallop. What makes the song enjoyable is its chorus: somewhat anthemic and easy to sing along to, but in a meaty metal sort of way. “Curse Of The Doomwraiths” is a decently competent song as well, with a similar styled chorus to “The Winter King” and a very nice dual-harmony guitar solo (which I’m a big sucker for).

The last song, “Trapped In A Nightmare”, is where things go a little awry for me. While not about beer, it feels very much as if it was born out of hanging around at the local pub with the regulars who have listened to the same songs on the same jukebox for untold years, and they all got together and said “hey, let’s record a song just like (_insert any classic hard rock band here_). I mean to say that I have heard this kind of song many, many times before, and then already performed by other bands who were trying to emulate someone else. Also, there are some indecipherable gang-style vocals. It is not a bad song per se, but these were a couple things that got me wondering about its necessity.

My thoughts surrounding “Trapped In A Nightmare” have led me to think that Avalon Steel is more than a little conservative in its approach to performing these otherwise decent songs. The three seem to share the same tempo, which seems to come across as just a little shy of mid-tempo. Of the songs that here, “Trapped In A Nightmare” could most definitely benefit from a faster pace. I don’t think that it would need to be performed at break-neck speed, but certainly 10-15 extra bpm would help. This leads me to the crux of my complaint. The drummer could have done more to break-up the sameness of the tempo by adding more fills to the fairly basic songs, and the vocals, while balls-out but at times, sound repetitive in the delivery of the verses. Both the drummer and the vocalist display, in each and every song, that they are more than capable of cutting loose.

Overall, these are good songs with good production, but delivered conservatively. Despite what appears to be me complaining, I actually really liked Ascension. I have been listening to it for almost 2 weeks straight. All I really needed was one extra song, a couple Nicko McBrain drum fills, and a couple of verses sung as if the singer is busting a nut.

Live Long and Rock Hard,

3.0 // 5