I’m a little bit late to the party in terms of a review, but I had to share my thoughts about possibly one of the best albums of the year. Paladin is a brand new power thrash/melodic death metal band from Atlanta that has been making huge waves in the metal world. Their debut album Ascension was released by Prosthetic Records on May 17th, and it seems like a match made from heaven. I don’t like making comparisons, because I feel like it undermines the originality of a band, but I think it’s worth saying that Paladin sounds like a love child from Skeletonwitch and Holy Grail(Both signed to Prosthetic Records). It can’t begin to tell you how amazing this record is, but I will attempt to in the following paragraphs. Balance is key to this album success.
I had the privilege to see Paladin perform live in a little bar in Bloomington(Indiana) with Throne of Iron and Knights of the Forge on their way to perform at Legions of Metal Festival in Chicago. That show warrants its own review, but that’s for another time. I managed to get my hands on an Ascension LP, and I was blown away by the quality and care that went into the presentation and sound of the record. The artwork is stunning to gaze upon, and I feel the vibe of the art matches the tone of the album. The lyrical content of the record speaks to my soul as most of the songs cover what I would consider “Classic” video game lore. The opening track “Awakening” is clearly about The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening(confirmed by the band).
The Songwriting: RIffs. More Riffs. Riffs everywhere. Ascension is a stunningly fun album to listen to. Paladin put themselves in a unique position in terms of what genre they identify as. There is power metal. There is thrash. There is melodic death metal. I said it earlier, but the thrash moments of this record reminds me of Skeletonwitch(major plus) and the power metal moments remind me of Holy Grail and Helloween(also major plus). That is one hell of a combination that not many bands could ever pull off. The track “Shoot for the Sun” was one of the first singles they released, and I believe it showcases and represents the rest of the album perfectly. The variety and placement of the tracks feel right as each song flows seamlessly from one to another without becoming boring and repetitive. I think that is the ultimate goal for any band to achieve. The production is immaculate, and it sounds even better on the vinyl edition of Ascension. The mix is a balanced blend of what you would expect in a new age thrash album, but clean and bright of a new age power metal record. It just sounds damn good.
Album Highlights: “Carpe Diem” is one of the heavier tracks of the album, but it also offers some of the most epic moments of Ascension. The vocals are mostly harsh until the cleans come in to add to that perfect balance I keep talking about. Towards the end of the song is a “woah” vocal section that concludes the track perfectly. There is a guitar line at the beginning of “Shoot for the Sun” that is so damn perfect that I literally couldn’t comprehend the skill that it took to capture that in a studio setting. It’s even better to witness them play that particular song live. “Call of the Night” offers up some of the band’s party thrash moments and it makes me want to break shit.
Conclusion: Paladin is set in motion to possibly become a major player in the modern heavy metal scene. Ascension set the bar incredibly high, and I do not doubt the band’s ability to build and grow with the success they will receive from this amazing record. Balance and variety are what makes this album so wonderful. Ascension is a record for someone who understands and appreciates heavy metal. It can be harsh, clean, happy, angry, and epic but can still uphold its integrity. This is one of the best releases of the year…for that matter possibly the best “metal” record in years. This is a masterpiece. Pure and simple.
Buy their music here: Bandcamp
Buy stuff from Prosthetic Records here: Store