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From the opening track, "The Epsilon Exordium", you are given of glimpse of what to expect. As the only instrument used in the first track is keyboards, one might expect to get some keyboard driven metal. Well, that’s exactly what “Atlantis Ascendant” is - keyboard driven black metal to be somewhat exact.
Even though the keyboards are easily the driving force of the album, the riffs are pretty hard to ignore. The riffs aren't wholly black metal; there's some traces of power, traditional, and even [maybe] a bit of thrash in there. While, the riffs definitely didn't stand out as something I really found exciting, they aren't bad riffs. They're interesting if nothing else, just not completely suited for me. If you do like them though, you will be pleased, as most of the songs are made up of many different riffs.
Since the keyboards are the focus of this album, my expectations were pretty high. The keyboards definitely do go a long way towards establishing an epic feel (their use is comparable to Turisas, but definitely not an exact sound-alike). However, epic keyboard parts as the main focus, doesn't do much for me. None of the keyboard parts really stood out; I never got excited. I kept waiting and waiting for them to really get me going, but it just never happened (the lone exception being the flute sounding section in "The Dreamer in the Catacombs of Ur" at 3:46, though that's probably because it sounds flute-ish). I realize that keyboard-driven is the sound that this band wants to have, but I would be interested in hearing some Bal-Sagoth with Chris Maudling's guitar playing as the focus instead.
The vocals are probably going to be hit or miss for people. Lord Byron switches back and forth between spoken word and black metal style vocals. The spoken word parts sound pretty cool; his voice actually kind of reminds me of Doug Bradley (of "Hellraiser" and Cradle of Filth fame). My only complaint about the spoken words sections is that they're used too often. They're used much more than the black metal vocals. Perhaps, if they had been used sparingly, I would have enjoyed them more. However, overall I found them to be kind of distracting. The black metal style vocals are pretty solid. They're trebly (although not very high-pitched), and pretty distinct sounding. The vocals in general have a volume inconsistency that I found a little annoying. At times there's epic keyboards parts being played, and the vocals are so quiet, I find myself straining to even hear them. Around 5:40 of "Draconis Albionensis" is a good example of this.
The drumming was pretty boring. I wouldn't say that the playing was of poor quality or anything, but I was definitely not wowed. Dave Mackintosh simply keeps consistent beats going so that Lord Byron and Jonny Maudling can do their thing. Mackintosh went on to drum for DragonForce, and I feel his drumming is the same there: uninspiring but very consistent (not necessarily a bad thing at all).
In the end, this should have been, at the very least, an entertaining album. However, I found it to be boring. It just feels lacking. It seems like too much style and not enough substance. There's too much of a keyboard focus. My favorite part of the album was easily Chris Maudling's guitar playing (which wasn't the focus, and I wasn't overly thrilled with anyway) If I was more into lyrics, I'm sure I would have enjoyed this release more, as you can tell Lord Byron put a lot of work into the lyrics/story. “Atlantis Ascendant” wasn't for me, but if you're looking for some extreme symphonic black metal (with crazy keyboards knocking down your door), then Bal-Sagoth may be a band worth checking out.