Not content to sit idly by and follow convention Atlanta quartet Paladin present a particularly temperamentful blend of power and thrash metal, brimming with character and attitude. Ascension - their full length debut - consists of equal parts riveting, gritty riffing from the flame licking frets of Taylor Washington and Alex Parra and triumphant melodic soaring on winds of speed and might, all collected in 50 minutes of punch packing fury. At times akin to the likes of Iced Earth with distinct rhythms to back up furious melodic leads, or the speedy, thrashy approach of Charred Walls of the Damned, Paladin spices up the formula with a twin guitar attack closer to that of Judas Priest's Tipton/Downing. The style and exection may sometimes seem spontaneous and aggressively haphazard, but mostly the music shows the extremes of power metal as well as some well paced restraint, never taking things too far or going into areas unfit for the style and theme; everything feels right as a maddening rain of fury.
As has been described by others, the sound is sort of like power metal on jet fuel; however, while often loaded with speed they don't take the overboard road paved by Dragonforce. Nor do they ever get with the boatload of cheese that comes with European style power metal, but rather let the musical proficiency speak for itself in weighty rhythm sections, massive riffing and the thunderous bass grooves of Andy McGraw. Clean vocals are mixed with fearsome growling, especially potent and menacing in the midpaced tracks, while Washington's cleans do most of the heavy lifting, carrying the melodic vein in the vocal lines. Catchy choruses strike all the much harder with the addition of the growls, and sparse layered vocals to add further depth. The tracklist holds a few exciting pearls. Opening number Awakening is the most clearly power metal track on the album and a standout example of the highlights in the guitar driven melodic approach on show throughout the album.
The album then progresses through darker, meaner stylistics of Divine Providence where the growls are first presented in full glory. On to thrashier moments like Call of the Night and and evil sounding Bury the Light, grabbing attention with gritty rhythm section and scorching thrash vibes in the lead section. Another soaring power metal track is presented in single Shoot for the Sun, a more positive tale lyric wise, before the album ends on one of its highest notes with progressively built Genesis. The six minute closer has progressive leanings built into the Nathan McKinney's ominous drum patterns and once more superb guitars; the masterful buildup through the ominous middle section leading into some of the best soloing on the album thrashing with melodic punch is one of the most memorable sections on the entire album. Even though it took a few listens to warm up to (I just could not get my head around those harsh vocals on the first round), and likely even more to fully appreciate, Ascension proves to hit the intended mark with impressive marksmanship, adding touches of the macabre and fascinating and provocative storytelling. Plus smoldering guitars shooting fire and lightning everywhere! Prepare thee for the blazing fury of mighty Paladin!
Standout tracks: Awakening, Bury the Light, Shoot for the Sun, Genesis