Australian prog metal outfit Divine Ascension first caught my attention in 2011 with their debut album As The Truth Appears (on Nightmare Records). In my original review for that debut album I wrote:
Lead vocalist Jennifer Borg has a powerful melodic rock vocal style similar to Floor Jansen and Sharon Den Adel, while totally avoiding the sometimes-annoying opera style of the gazillion Tarja clones, although Jennifer can hit those high notes with ease.
Instead of relying on the symphonic metal formula, Divine Ascension has more of a European prog/power metal style with keyboards used to accentuate the heavier guitar parts.
I look forward to watching Divine Ascension’s burgeoning career with great interest. Joining the ranks of fellow Australian heavyweights Voyager, Lord, Hemina, and Vanishing Point, Divine Ascension has created an original style in their own right.
Fast forward to late 2014 and I was dead on in my analysis of the first album as Divine Ascension has just released their long awaited follow up titled Liberator. In the interest of full disclosure, I did not receive a promotional copy of this album; instead, I sought it out and purchased a digital copy. When purchasing new music I prefer to buy the physical cd, but with Liberator I was genuinely anxious to hear the new album I didn’t want to wait for the physical cd to be shipped to me so I went to the bands Bandcamp page to purchase the album so I could delve into it immediately for my review.
The promise I heard on the debut has come to fruition on Liberator as the band has matured in sound and songwriting. Jennifer Borg’s vocals are silky smooth with power and passion and the band has increased the heavy chugging guitars of Karl Szulik and Robb Inglis with the layered keyboard wizardry of Jason Van Pelt. Bassist Jason Meracis and drumming powerhouse Luke Wenczel are a precise and intricate a rhythm section as any in metal today.
The symphonic blast of power and grandeur starts off the aptly titled Dawn Brings No Mercy, as the band is firing on all cylinders with heavy chugging guitars and a sweet keyboard melody. Borg’s strong yet melodic vocals are as intriguing as ever. An atmospheric symphonic keyboard section mid-song showcases Borg’s ability to sing with emotion and grace and Van Pelt takes center stage with a technical display of his prowess on the keys.
On Stronger, the band shines with a guitar heavy, uplifting anthem that empowers the listener with a positive message and a catchy as hell chorus combined with a powerful musical backdrop.
The title track begins with a galloping double bass drum attack to the aural senses and a sweet harmony guitar lead into Borg’s exquisitely intense vocals that show off her impressive range. The guitar tandem of Szulik and Inglis get their opportunity to shred as well showing off their considerable chops!
The mid-tempo riffage of My Contender Lies takes the speed down a slight notch without sacrificing the heaviness while featuring one of the best and memorable choruses on the album. Borg’s soaring vocal is simply gorgeous. The clean guitar intro to Sorrow’s Sacrifice is reminiscent of the classic Def Leppard tune Bringing On The Heartbreak but once the song gets going all similarities to that song are erased with a shout-a-long chorus that is sure to go over well in a live concert setting.
The heavy chug guitar rhythms and Jennifer’s charismatic vocals highlight Crystal Tears, an energetic song with incredible harmony guitar leads and a driving beat.
Keyboardist Van Pelt gets the spotlight on Machine, a spritely heavy rock song that is reminiscent of Dutch metallers Delain in attitude and melody especially during the chorus.
The albums ballad titled Red Sky is a showcase for Borg’s emotionally charged singing over a lush keyboard landscape painted by keyboardist Van Pelt. The song builds in intensity until the full band joins in a final symphonic crescendo.
A harmony guitar riff that is reminiscent of the Megadeth classic Hanger 18 is the hook throughout The Final Stand, which features yet another stellar performance by Borg, especially during the chorus. The band shows off its love for symphonic power metal on Hideaway, a charging blast of aggressive metal that is layered with melodic keys and warm vocals that engage and enrapture the listener with a catchy refrain.
The album closes with the soft acoustic guitar strains of Memoria’s Longing and soft passionate and soulful vocals of Jennifer Borg. An emotional and heartwarming ballad and an interesting choice to end an album chocked full of thundering double bass drums, heavy as hell guitar rhythms, bombastic symphonic key elements, and insanely talented progressive power metal.
With Liberator, Divine Ascension has taken the next step into the upper echelon of the progressive power metal genre.