Paladin – Ascension Review

Fuck Paladin.

If there are two areas of metal I have little patience for its power metal and melodic death metal. Not that I don’t find plenty to appreciate in both, but I don’t really care to keep up with either, usually relying on Captain’s wonderful year-end power metal roundups or very persuasive recommendations from trusted friends. So while there may be a few things that stick out here or there, I find the majority of it to be very same-y, utilizing similar production, generic melodies, riffing styles, predictable shredding solos, etc., and the discovery process feels like treading in lukewarm milk after about fifteen minutes of poking around on Bandcamp. What can I say, spending my time investigating the nine side projects of some ungodly talented Italian guitar wizard or a bunch of Swedes in matching plain black short sleeve button-ups just isn’t my thing. And what did these holy warriors from Atlanta go and do? They went and put the two together. While mostly built on a Euro-style power metal backbone, their debut full-length, Ascension, adds a splash of melodeath and full on thrash to the mix. Not an unlikely mash-up, really, considering the styles aren’t all that far removed in terms of musicality and hook construction. This doesn’t really bode well for my palate at all though.

Goddamnit, there is no way I am going to like this.

Release date: May 17, 2019. Label: Prosthetic Records
The album’s opener, the aptly titled “Awakening,” reveals Paladin’s spine without a hint of bashfulness: soaring leads give way to some thrashy, palm-muted riffs that are unmistakably power metal. At least it’s power metal with some actual power behind it. The vocals seal the deal, as lead vocalist/guitarist Taylor Washington belts out the band’s uplifting, self-empowering lyrics. Galloping verses give way to full-on kicks, urging the volume knob to be twisted up a few more notches. The solos adds to the music, avoiding the pitfalls of overstaying their welcome. It’s nothing new here, to be fair, but I can’t help thinking that it’s one doozy of an album opener as it flies out of the gates and straight for the skies at breakneck speed.

I am really starting to enjoy this. I hate it so much.

Oh, good! The onset of growled vocals at the beginning of “Divine Providence” will surely give me something I can trash on so I can go ahead and throw this cursed band in the garbage and get on with my day. Except, well, I don’t hate the vocals. They fit the music well enough, and the switch back over to the cleans over the needling lead guitar feels organic and well-placed. Sure, the growling isn’t quite on Swanö or Åkerfeldt levels (and to be fair, whose are) but they mesh well with the loftier spirits of the band. If Paladin weren’t already smirking at my tastes, they full on scoff when they throw a breakdown into the last half of the song. “What the hell is this, metalcore††?!” I scoff to myself as my head uncontrollably bobs to the rhythm.

The beginning portion of “Carpe Diem” takes a page from Slaughter Of The Soul with it’s melodic death by way of thrash riffing and harsh vocal delivery before doing an absolute about-face and unleashing what is undoubtedly a grotesquely overpowered spell of power metal with the pre-chorus/chorus combo.

Wait, am I really playing this song for the third time? What is wrong with me? Is this an existential crisis? Paladin have taken what should have been a perfectly spiteful trip to the salt mines and are recklessly putting me in a fantastic mood. The leads here are stellar, and the catchy “woah’s” threaten to infect anyone within earshot for what is undoubtedly a highlight of Ascension.

Paladin continue to sprinkle heavier elements throughout the record, and each success only further increases my enjoyment of the record, no matter how much trve kvlt will I try to throw at it. They know what they are seeking to achieve and it goes down smoothly, much to my chagrin. It’s hard not to fall for the cascading sweeps on “Fall From Grace” or the more classic speed metal riffing on “Shoot For The Sun.” Ascension is pure, undeniable infectious fun. By the time they are throwing in elements of black metal riffing in “Vagrant, I find myself taking it all in stride and loving every minute of it.

The band’s namesake is fitting as these warriors remain uncompromising in their crusade to bring heavy power metal to the world. Given that the album’s themes loosely revolve around rising up from beginnings, I have a feeling this won’t be the last we’ll hear from Paladin.

Goddamnit. I can’t wait.

Keep in mind, this is coming from someone with a sizeable chunk of hard drive space dedicated to bands all trying their hardest to sound like Darkthrone.

††It’s not.

Posted by Ryan Tysinger

I listen to music, then I write about it. On Twitter @d00mfr0gg (Outro: The Winds Of Mayhem)

  1. This album is Killer. I’m really loving their nod to Agent Steel on the track “Dawn of Rebirth”. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for these guys.


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