Division - Ascension To Eternity


Year of Release: 1998
Label: Siegen Records
Catalog Number: SR-0015
Format: CD
Total Time: 00:00:00

I've been following Division's music now for a couple of years. Anyone who knows my taste in music, knows that Division's music is not a style that I normally listen to on a regular basis. Their first disc, Paradise Lost, was so poorly produced, that it didn't help the band get noticed much in the metal world. Mike Blevins, one of the maniacal guitarists, kept in touch with me and finally advised me that to understand Division, you have to see them play live. So, it just happened that Division was playing at the first Powermad gig in Baltimore, and on a plane I went to see some prog metal and Division. Quite frankly, their show blew me away. I wondered what the hell I was listening to on Paradise Lost, because the show sounded nothing like the music. Aggressive, maniacal, in your face, power metal laced with progressive tendencies.

I had the opportunity to see Division again in Baltimore this year, and their show actually blew away their last show, and I was amazed at the progressive maturity that the band was showing, musically and especially vocally. Division promised an ass kicking disc, and even included their fan base in the naming of the title. The band seems bent on carrying the metal flag back to America with their "balls to the wall", "fans come first" attitude toward the music. Not to mention that they are one of the hardest working bands in metal, playing anywhere-anytime as long as they can physically make it to their regular jobs the next day. It's this attitude and maturity that has brought them to their Ascension To Eternity disc.

THE STYLE:

If I had to keep this to one line (and I can't), I'd say "Iron Maiden on speed." Division is bent on playing the fastest, aggressive version of Iron Maiden style music I've heard to date, without being an obvious clone of the band. The twin guitar attack of Division is their trademark, and they've certainly cornered the market in that area; or at least have prided themselves in this area and have become one of the premier showcases of this style of playing. Most of their songs incorporate the twin lead style, and it certainly has become their signature sound. Surprisingly, the band has incorporated a few key-strings here and there, but they quickly turn into stormbringers before you can start to think that Division has gone lightweight. I've urged Mike Blevins many times to incorporate keyboards into their music, and he's politely smiled and said "maybe." I think that was his way of saying that Division is about METAL. It's a no holds barred, double-axed, aggressive, at-the-speed-of-sound style that they are proud of, and bands like Iced Earth, Mercury Rising, Jag Panzer, Steel Prophet have all adopted. The band is intent on bringing back that "pure metal" sound to the masses, and they have the talent and opportunity to do so.

On Ascension To Eternity, the band keeps pace with the style of Paradise Lost but with many added extra attractions. Bits of key strings, acoustic intros, more vocal melodies and harmonies, and a bigger guitar sound make this one much more memorable and kicking than their previous attempt. Some of the thrashiness seems to have disappeared, and the group vocals (yellings as I call them) in the midst of songs have diminished significantly. In it's place are more power, more aggression, and certainly more accomplished vocal work. Overall, it's a very "METAL" disc, worthy of being placed high on your headbanging list. When you're feeling aggressive or angry, take out this disc and bang along to it, it's very good therapy.

THE BAND:

Mike Blevins / Guitars
Matt Crooks / Guitars
Dan Plunkett / Bass
EJ Ripple / Drums
Scott Stewart / Vocals

The guitars are obviously the driving force of the band, with the spotlight on the twin attack of Blevins and Crooks. The two are the equivalent of the more aggressive style of the Maiden approach to metal. At every turn, the two are ripping away either rhythm or leads in unison, and they have nailed down this style very well. The bass is played in a furious fashion as well - it takes quite an accomplished player to keep up with the two guitarists, not only in style, but in aggression, and the bass interacts well in this case. Pounding and driving along the side of the guitars, the triple threat sound produces that aggressive, mass attack sound that the band thrives on. I've seen Dan Plunkett play along side of these guys, and although he stays pretty quiet on stage, his ability to keep up with the more aggressive style of the guitars is commendable. The drums have that speedy, thrashy, style of the bands I've mentioned above. Effortlessly pounding through some of the more progressive moments of the music, EJ Ripple plows through the rhythms easily providing the base for the guitars. Combine the four of these players, and you have one, kick ass, all out metal blitz, just the way the band likes it.

THE VOCALS:

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Scott Stewart is has one of the most unique voices in metal, bar none. I've listened to him sing for a couple of years, and I have to say that this is his best performance so far. I wish I could describe his voice in a comparison, but this will be difficult. It is that unique. He has a high pitched, natural voice, but mixed in with a strange tone, and pure aggression without being growly or gruff. Perhaps it is in the strange way he pronounces his words, or his way of presenting the words, but it's in a way that I've rarely heard in metal. He has an almost "elegant" way of pronouncing his words, and his voice is an interesting contrast to the aggressive music. I'd almost have expected a growling, gruff sounding screamer to complement this music, but the pure, natural, unique tone of Scott adds a nice contrast to the music. While he is more than capable of being "loud" enough to handle the music, he can actually SING, and this may have that edge that sets Division apart from the other bands that have screamers out front instead of singers. Scott is now singing with more aggression, more passion that I've heard since the beginning, and is even using harmonies to his advantage this time out. He has his more aggressive moments, and even then he is a pleasure to listen to. His style really adds a flair to this music, making it more enjoyable to listen to than other bands that play this style with growlers. I believe that it his performance that actually draws me to listen to this style of music that is normally not my cup of tea.

THE PRODUCTION:

People always ask, "is production that important to the average listener, and why do you talk about production in your reviews?" Well, Division has the answer. If you listen to Paradise Lost first, and then listen to Ascension to Eternity, you will have your answer. Having to capture this band the way the play live is the key, and this time out I believe they have almost accomplished this. Paradise Lost is about as empty sounding as it gets. Not to mention that Scott Stewart was brought in just before the recording and had little or no time to prepare. This time, the band has beefed up the sound quite a bit, and cranked up the DB's to give us much more punch and boom. I personally don't think that the sound is perfect, and as always, I have tons of suggestions but when the availability of money is at a minimum, there isn't much bands can do.

However, I can't complain much about the sound this time out, as it's much heavier and beefier than before. The guitars are the part that needed to be brought up to snuff, and they certainly were. They have a little bit of an "electronic" tone to them, and if you are familiar with the Carisma guitar sound, then you know what I mean. The bass is deep and punchy and gives the disc much more of a heavier end this time. The bass was severely lacking on Paradise Lost. The drums could have used a bit more of punch, and it is here that I believe that would have put this disc in a different light. Again, with the band doing the sound, and money at a minimum, I'm sure that optimum sound was achieved. The snare drum and kick drums could have used some more "bang for the buck" as the powerful guitar sound would have been brought even further along side of more powerful drum sounds. The vocals shine. Every single word that Scott sings can be heard clearly and sharply. For a singer with this good of a voice, that is the way it should be. The vocals are actually a bit far up in the mix, but again, when you have a singer this good, no one cares. The separation between vocal harmonies are done very well and it sounds like Scott Stewart has been split in half during these moments; a nice effect indeed. Overall, this is more than acceptable sound, and with a better budget, Division will achieve that premium sound that they deserve to have. In the meantime, this disc is well recorded and will certainly give more than an idea of what this band can do.

THE COMMENTS:

Anyone into headbanging metal needs to get this disc. This is a disc that allows you to take out your aggression while the band does. I've seen the band in action playing this music, and aggression is the key word. Songs like "Risen," "Eraser" and "Veiled" really kick my ass in time of need, and as I said, this is not my preferred style of music to listen to regularly, but when you have those needs to bang thy head, this disc is perfect. Also, when you're a singer buff, like me, you want to hear Scott Stewart sing over and over. His voice is definitely one of the more unique in metal. Put on "Risen" (one of my favorites) or the hellatious version of "Heaven & Hell" that the band treats us with to hear just what Stewart can do. Oh, I did forget to mention that "Heaven & Hell" cover. It's done Division style, and done superbly. If you're shy about buying this, have someone tape this song for you to get the drift of what this band is all about and where they are coming from. My hat goes off to this band for keeping at it, and climbing higher and higher until they reach what they are after. Division is one hard working band, and it's clear that their efforts are really paying off as you can hear on this disc. If you can catch them live, and that's not hard to do on the East Coast, by all means do, because if you think there is a lack of metal out there, then Division has the answer to your problem. The indy bands out there are single handedly bringing back metal to the masses, and Division is at the head of the line.


Tracklisting:
Children Of The Stone / Departed / Risen / Heaven And Hell (Black Sabbath Cover) / Common Bonds / Articles Of Faith / All Of Our Yesterdays / Temptation / Eraser / Veiled / Remembrance / Winter's Rain / Free / Time Between Times (Live)

Musicians:
Michael Blevins - guitar and vocals
Matt Crooks - guitar, keyboards, and vocals
Dan Plunkett - bass
Scott Stewart - lead vocals
E. J. Ripple - drums

Discography:
Paradise Lost (1996)
Ascension To Eternity (1998)
Trinity (2004)

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin US

Added: July 25th 1999
Reviewer: Larry "LarryD" Daglieri

Artist website: www.division-usa.com
Hits: 839
Language: english

  

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