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I have been listening (and loving) this album for far too long, and not written about it. There can be little doubt as to why Ascendancy is ranked as the 6th greatest album of the decade by Metal Hammer. Trivium hones into their niche, expanding on many ideas first presented in their debut “Ember to Inferno”, and the result is astonishingly good. I have been a fan of Trivium for almost 6 years now, and Ascendancy still never ceases to impress and energize. For some obscure reason, there are masses of ignorant listeners who hold the unjustified preconception that Trivium are a less than worthy band, and in the same league with the much popularised Avenged Sevenfold and Bullet For My Valentine. One good, honest listen of this album would completely shift this disposition. By my reckoning, Ascendancy is everything I hoped for and pretty damn close to perfection.
Every band member has an audible and obvious impact on the ‘hugeness’ of the album. The sheer amount of memorable riffs found within is incredible, drawing from a wide variety of musical influences. Harmonies reminiscent of Iron Maiden and Machine Head, the speed-picking of Metallica’s first four releases, and even hints at black metal (evident in the title track); all combines with Trivium’s own unique style with an astonishing result. The liveliness of a young band that has just ‘found’ their style is palpable throughout the album. Every song has its ‘pump-up’ moments, contrasted with generally slower and more melodic choruses, allowing the listener to experience the ferocity and aggression without tiring out or becoming disinterested. This juxtaposition creates the unusual theme and atmosphere that I associate with Ascendancy; dark, imposing and angry, yet blissfully enlightened and crystal clear.
The drum work in Ascendancy is a force to be reckoned with. Travis Smith out-does himself with a variety of complex patterns, perhaps most notably; his intermediate fills throughout the intro of Pull Harder on the Strings of Your Martyr. Smith’s extensive use of double kick throughout drives a multitude of songs into their crescendos (see The Deceived, Like Light to the Flies, Declaration, Departure, Ascendancy... what the hell, almost every song apart from the acoustic opener, The End of Everything). I have become aware of growing criticisms of Smith’s drumming, and I cannot disagree more to these claims. I considered Smith as one of the leading drummers in the scene, and have yet to be blown away by his replacement, Nick Augusto.
With regard to the balance of the album, it is impeccable. Brutality and melody are perfectly matched to my tastes, especially with Matt Heafy’s vocals (harsh for the most part, yet tastefully clean at select intervals). This is not the case with their later albums (most notably The Crusade and In Waves) which based greater emphasis on clean vocal passages. For a man that can scream and shout so harshly, Matt possesses significant talent as a clean vocalist (see Drowned and Torn Asunder; Dying in Your Arms). The production of Ascendancy is clear and projective of every minute detail, engulfing the listener in a veritable tidal wave of perfection. One final aspect that has my nod of approval, is the refreshing absence of any stereotypical, bland breakdowns that must make an entrance into every song in the case of some bands (Parkway Drive and Avenged Sevenfold, I’m looking at you). Breakdowns do make a select few appearances throughout, however these are complimented by intricate lead guitar work, stimulating a great sense of originality and superior musicianship.
It is extremely rare to find an album where every song is legitimately brilliant. My list so far includes Symbolic and The Sound of Perseverance by Death; Fury of Our Maker’s Hand and Last Kind Words by DevilDriver; Master of Puppets and ...And Justice for All by Metallica; and The Blackening by Machine Head. Ascendancy can be added to this list with no uncertainty; it is memorable in every sense. The only inhibiting reason why this masterpiece has not scored a perfect 100%, is that I believe that nothing can be truly flawless, but for the life of me, I cannot find a problem with Ascendancy.
Personal favourites: Ascendancy, Departure, Like Light to the Flies, Suffocating Sight, Pull Harder on the Strings of Your Martyr.
Recommended listening: Every song is an incredible listening experience.
Specific moments for non-believers: The snare roll and solo of Light Like to the Flies, the harmony and solo of Ascendancy, the intro of Pull Harder, the harmony and final riff of The Deceived, the solo of Suffocating Sight... to name a few.