Stranger than Fiction

Nth Ascension

For a genre that concerns itself so much with forward motion that it is named […]
By Jack Harding
June 25, 2019
Nth Ascension - Stranger than Fiction album cover

For a genre that concerns itself so much with forward motion that it is named after it, Progressive Rock sure has a lot of cliches. Now whilst I would argue, as a Prog obsessive myself, that these cliches are only present in bad Prog bands. For example, NTH ASCENSION. The cliches are adhered to, as if they were being ticked off one by one. Long songs for no real reason? Check. Pretentious sound-scaping? Check. Not a single memorable melody? Check. Great musicianship cannot mask an utter absence of ideas, and stretching out each moment relentlessly only adds salt to the wounds inflicted. This album would be just bearable at a typical length of 40 minutes. At 1 hour and 15 minutes of unimaginative mediocrity, this is an exercise in torture. The boredom caused is quite simply excruciating.

The album opens somewhat promisingly with the aptly, and incredibly imaginatively, named "The Opening".  It is a welcoming and intriguing welcome to this sonic soundscape the band have attempted to create. With other worldly and trippy atmospherics, you are prepared for a kaleidoscopic expedition. An expedition that never arrives, but is constantly dangled before you for what seems like an age. The same idea is repeated for three minutes before simply layering on a part, and then continuing with the agonizing repetition. Any goodwill created by the initially positive impressions is ground to a fine dust by the sheer lack of movement.

I want to find some positives with this record. I hate bad music, and I actively want everything to be great, but the struggle here is herculean. Tracks "True Identity" and "Fire In The Sky" attempt to mimic DREAM THEATER with minimal success (clean guitars remind of the intro to "Pull Me Under"), but when a rare interesting idea is stumbled upon, it is repeated until you hate it. Credit where credit is due however, the keyboard player, DARREL TREECE-BIRCH is clearly very talented, although he is rarely given space to shine, other than with aimless ambient sections. The keyboard solo in "The Gathering (Canaan Part 7)" is a really pleasant surprise, but is quickly swept under the rug for a poor impression of DAVID GILMOUR on guitar.

In 1 hour and 15 minutes of music, I am genuinely struggling to find even 10 minutes worth of material that genuinely excites me. The level of dragging things out on this record is quite simply ridiculous. In the longest track, album closer "Sound To Light" only 5 minutes of the 18 minute run time are actually worth anything. I adore long songs when the length is appropriate. Long songs need movement, dynamic change and development of ideas. You cannot just stretch a 4 minute song out to 15 minutes, with things remaining fine, which is all this band are doing here. This is length for the sake of length. Writing 20 minute songs does not make you RUSH. RUSH knew when a song should be a 20 minute epic and when it should be a 3 minute rock song. This album is a perfect example of a group of people completely misunderstanding why Progressive Music is good, only to create music based on these falsities. Avoid this pretentious slog with all your might.

4 / 10

Nothing special








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"Stranger than Fiction" Track-listing:

1. The Opening
2. True Identity
3. Fire In The Sky
4. Reconciled
5. The Gathering (Canaan Part 7)
6. Journey's End (Canaan Part 8)
7. Lament (Canaan Part 9)
8. Sound To Light

Nth Ascension Lineup:

Alan Taylor - Vocals
Darrel Treece-Birch - Keyboards
Craig Walker - Drums And Percussion
Gav Walker - Bass Guitar
Martin Walker - Guitars

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