STRATHE ARENA, May 23
It's a rare sight to see a concert start so solemnly. The lights and smoke start up, signalling for the crowd to go wild as a small piece of instrumental music rises from the speakers. This not just any piece of music however, this is the opening from Ascendor's new album, Razing Heaven. The Storming The Gates Tour has been on the road now for 4 weeks, 4 weeks of music, metal and mayhem as the band play up the largest venues yet and slaughter more Gods in their stage show and tonight was no different.
Back to the start, and as the final chord of the organ fades out, it took the noise of the fans with it, all the energy dies down as the band enter the stage, accompanied by a bound Messenger. I couldn't tell you who it belonged to from where I was standing but it didn't matter, Dietrich Herne told us. "This is a golden-winged pretender of the God, Fahldran!" He booms. "The God-king of men of Strathe! Lord of the Daylight and master of all the world!" He pauses for the crowd's jeering. "Or so he claims. This… gilded dove, claims to be His Voice!" More jeers. "But I'm here to tell you, I AM THE ONE TRUE VOICE!!" And so he is, his charisma feeds the crowd, acknowledging his position as lead vocalist and frontman. As the others take up their instruments, Dietrich properly starts the gig with the sacrifice of the Voice of Fahldran. The blinding of the Messenger soundtracked by the heavy, thundering bassline of Thoren Brigg, the opening to their newest single, Bring Down The Reign. The drums, keyboards and twin guitars kick in shortly after the Messenger dies and Dietrich begins to sing.
The most astonishing thing about Ascendor's live shows are the ability the band has to take down and kill an entire pantheon in a single night. While some claim it's merely an act and that no one really dies during these events, others - fans, primarily - know that what happens onstage is the God's truth, if you'll excuse the pun. Actually, no, don't excuse it. That is what they believe. That Dietrich and the rest are literally 'ascending' to the status of Gods in their own right, destroying all other faiths in their path.
As the gig thundered on, the first of the Strathe Pantheon made their presence known. The lights surrounding the stage exploded and heralded the arrival of Ghurahl, Duke of Power. The crowd were in awe of the spectacle before them, and the bloodshed had yet to begin. As the band began their next song, Horn Of War, they wowed the audience, with their long-practised ability to split their focus between performance and combat. Within seconds of completing Horn, Ghurahl was dead. His blood wasn't even cold by the time the band ripped into their next song.
Eventually the corpses of dead Gods littered the stage, various Messengers and Hordes of the Gods of Strathe were slaughtered by the band and even the fans. But things were only starting to get interesting, as Jeroen finished the two minute, lightning quick guitar solo of Warrior's Reward, Hekh, the Lady of the Abyss rose from the ground. Screaming ancient obscenities and summoning an undead army to avenge her dead brethren. The crowd went wild. As anyone who's been to an Ascendor gig before will tell you, it's not a proper gig without zombies. The cheering distracted and confused Fhaldran's Queen, allowing the violence and music to turn the tide in their favour.
As the night drew to a close, the main event, so to speak, began. As the ground under our very feet warped and roared with the wrathful fury of Fahldran himself! The sky above burned as the form of the God came into being. Seeing the rest of His Pantheon torn, battered and defeated sent him into a violent rage and Ascendor flew into their final song of the night, the ever popular and crowd pleasing, Devastating The Stars. And I have to tell you, it was amazing. The crowd knew every word, the band never missed a note and the battle. The battle was the most spectacular thing this reviewer has ever seen. Every blow was punctuated perfectly by the music and, I'm not sure why, but there's something very empowering about seeing a man, like you or I, beating an omnipotent being into a bloodied pulp.
The gig overall, was an event unlike any other. It's rare to see such a spectacle in these current times, as pop gets more technical and mass-produced. Ascendor, however, will be nowhere near the charts for a long time yet, despite an ever-growing fanbase. In the tradition of Rock and Metal, they are some of the brightest stars to enter the field. The most powerful in Power Metal and absolutely one of the heaviest. Long may they play and may they torch the skies wherever they go. Go see them, you'll not regret it.