Australian progressive metallers Divine Ascension are back with their third album, The Uncovering. Apparently. To be honest, I was blissfully unaware they were here in the first place or that they’d gone anywhere. But this appears to be a failing on my part. Their previous outing, Liberator, saw them touring in support of genre stalwarts Stratovarius, as well as getting on the road with the inimitable Blind Guardian. Whilst I have something of a soft spot for both these bands, it’s undeniable that their (extensive) back catalogs are patchy—although I won’t hear a word said against Blind Guardian’s Nightfall in Middle Earth—and I can’t help but query how much space there really is in what might be termed progressive-power metal. Still, with their debut—As the Truth Appears—having dropped in 2011, Divine Ascension are hardly newbies. The question is, does The Uncovering bring anything new to light? Poor pun fully intended.
Despite their Australian roots, what Divine Ascension actually offer up is a perfectly respectable piece of progressive-ish Euro-power metal, featuring soaring female vocals from singer Jessica Borg, accompanied by some speedy, if cheesy and well-trodden solos from guitarist Karl Szulik. And rounded out by a solid rhythm section comprising of Jason Meracis on bass and Luke Wenczel on drums. The lyrics, when I tuned into them, appeared to recall emo/nu-metal tropes of the early 2000s, covering themes of isolation and rebellion—”holding back will only make it bitter, will only make it linger; so free the winds of change,” croons Borg on “Revolution Phase;” “we will go the distance to prepare for revolution phase,” with some shouted refrains of “phase” in the background. Other tracks—“Beyond the Line” and “One Step From Here,” for example—flirt with effects on the vocals, introducing echo and reverb.
It’s probably unfair to Borg—who doesn’t try to emulate the operatic stylings of Tarja Turunen—but I cannot get away from the impression that The Uncovering is the bastard offspring of a debauched Nightwish–DragonForce Christmas bash. It comprises ten mid-length tracks—none short and punchy, none long and engaging—which, despite at least seven start-to-finish listens, I find it very hard to tell apart. They all proffer some decent bombast from Wenczel’s drumwork and the guitars hit all the notes one expects from this genre—big, melodic riffs and lightning fast fretwork, with a few moodier, gothic sections. There are atmospheric elements too, with ethereal backing vocals and synth. Borg’s voice is strong and clear, and high in the mix, never sounding swamped by the music.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with any of the tracks on The Uncovering. They’re simply unremarkable and, after a while, it’s quite possible to stop noticing the album is on. In fact, I’ve had it playing in the background while penning this and just noticed that it finished. I’m not sure how long ago that happened. This might be at least in part because the production feels a bit compressed in the heavier passages, thus sounding flat. Every now and again, there’s something that makes one’s ears prick up—for instance, when Borg is joined on vocals for “The Pursuit of Desire” by Tom Englund of Evergrey; the addition of some male vocals (albeit not ones to my personal taste) offering a little differentiation from the album’s ebb and flow. Let’s not kid ourselves, Stratovarius have their shortcomings but they hook you in. You cannot help but be swept along as the music swells and soars. The Uncovering did not hook me in. It left me completely unmoved.
If you loved 2014’s Liberator and have just been waiting for Divine Ascension to drop something markedly similar, you won’t—based on my single spin of the previous record—be disappointed. If you’re looking for a technically proficient piece of progressive power metal, fronted by some strong female vocals, well, I don’t know if I’d advise you to start here, but you could do worse. Do Divine Ascension offer anything genuinely progressive or that we’ve not heard before? No. Will I personally be revisiting The Uncovering? Unlikely.
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: ViciSolum Productions
Websites: divineascension1.bandcamp.com | divine-ascension.com | facebook.com/divineascension
Releases Worldwide: November 16, 2018