The Ascended already created a fair bit of buzz within the Melbourne metal scene off the back of their first album, 2018’s Awaken Within, but they’ve made even bigger leaps with their upcoming second effort The Dark. As the influences discussed below show, the band’s sound is rooted in the metalcore/NWOAHM movement of the mid 2000s, blending thrashing melodeath riffs with harsh vocals and strong melodies. Between bands like The Ascended and the current “sasscore” trend, it seems we’ve entered NWOAHM revival territory, as the musicians who grew up on these records start forming bands and com into their own. I, for one, am certainly here for it.
Mat Wale (vocals, guitar)
Trivium – Ascendancy (2005)
There are a few albums that first drew me to play guitar as well as parental influence. However, there is one album that made me want to be a musician. Ascendancy by Trivium changed the game for me; it was my first introduction to harsh vocals and really into that metalcore style. It had me hooked and still to this day is the most influential album to me and how I carry myself as a vocalist and guitarist. The music speaks for itself; there’s a reason it is deemed to be their “best album”. It’s raw, aggressive and powerful in every way. But for me, it goes further than the music. I look at what they achieved; just 18 years old, signed to a major label, playing one of the world’s most renowned metal festivals, Download. That inspired me, it made me believe that it was something I could achieve, and from there “the dream” started to form.
I can say with absolute confidence that that album shaped the musician I am now; that style of music formed the core of how I played, how I thought about riffs and song structure and to this day. Although more refined now, the sound still forms a core of how I go about making music. As a newer frontman, having only picked up vocals for this band, I take a lot from the way Matt Heafy carries himself on stage and engages with the audience and I put my own spin on that. Ascendancy will forever remain one of my all-time favorite records for these reasons. It is a great listen start to finish and it has helped me personally to discover who I am as a musician.
Corey Verhaegh – (guitar, vocals)
Children of Bodom – Are You Dead Yet (2005)
For me it must be Children of Bodom’s Are You Dead Yet album. I was tinkering with guitar a little bit before hand but once my ears heard the all high banshee squeals of Alexi Laiho on his guitar and the melodies of synchronicity at the fingertips of Janne Wirman on keys, I knew that this is it! THIS IS IT! I was hooked on everything guitar, everything metal! My computer started filling up with PDF after PDF of guitar tabs of albums from over the world of music. Are You Dead Yet really hit home with songs that really got me motivated to invest more and more time with guitar with big solos and melodies for days and days!
After getting what I thought was semi-decent at playing guitar, I formed multiple projects just dreaming of being as big and amazing as the greats. I have Alexi posters on my wall and I still have his pick that he played with in Melbourne that he tossed to me from stage. Not only Children of Bodom, but Alexi Laiho himself is my inspiration for learning and pursuing the craft of guitar. I’ll be honest; the first few days after I heard of Alexi’s passing on the 19th of Dec 2020, I cried man. I broke down and cried. I picked up my ESP guitar and I put a mix of Bodom songs on loud. Their sound will forever be an inspiration to me as a musician and will remind me of some amazing times.
Braden Dawson (bass)
Mastodon – Crack the Skye (2009)
A lot of the early exposure I had to metal music was within video games; listening to Iron Maiden’s “2 Minutes To Midnight” and Megadeth’s “Peace Sells“ in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (2005) ignited the palate, but it was the Guitar Hero series where I started to listen to those bands that now have had such a huge influence on me as a musician. Guitar Hero II (2005) introduced me to the thick riffs of The Sword and Lamb of God, but it was the sequel to this that served the flavour of the band that has influenced me more than any other; Mastodon.
I’ve been a drummer longer than I’ve been a bassist, and hearing “Blood and Thunder” from Leviathan (2004) for the first time absolutely floored me; I’d never heard anyone play the drums with more ferocity than Brann Dailor. There was just something so against-the-grain about his approach to the role of drums that lit a spark of rebellion in my musicianship. I was always told to keep a solid foundation and take it easy on the fills, but listening to him play in the early Mastodon records, you would think the band had Goro from Mortal Kombat (1992) at the back hitting the skins. The slow jam of “Sleeping Giant” from Blood Mountain (2006) piqued my riff interest, while the furious drum intro of “The Wolf is Loose” gained my attention.
The album that cemented my love for Mastodon was 2009’s Crack The Skye. To me, Crack The Skye was a display of a group of musicians who don’t let ego or the lust for attention dictate their sound, but the intricate layering of a multitude of melodies and harmonies in service of the song; I like to think that my bass playing, and by extension, everything we do in The Ascended follows this same principle. If you listen to “God Of Harvest” from Awaken Within, one of the first drum fills is an ode to Leviathan’s “Iron Tusk”. Troy Sanders is an absolute inspiration to me; he doesn’t get fancy with his basslines, he just locks in and provides a rock-solid foundation, and on occasion, pops in for a cheeky fill to make sure people know he’s there. I admire the fact that Mastodon are always willing to take risks and try something new and I feel we have achieved this with The Dark.
The Dark comes out this Friday, the 17th of September. Physical copies can be ordered through The Ascended’s bandcamp page.