Paladin, according to the dictionary, means "any of the twelve peers of Charlemagne's court, of […]
By Martin Knap
July 29, 2019
Paladin - Ascension album cover

Paladin, according to the dictionary, means "any of the twelve peers of Charlemagne's court, of whom the Count Palatine was the chief" or by extension "a knight renowned for heroism and chivalry". And everyone knows that it's a character class in Dungeons and Dragons and other D&D inspired role-playing games. Anyway, it has kind of a nerdy ring to it and it's only fitting for a Power Metal band. And indeed, if you look at PALADIN's band pick that they use on their Facebook page, you'll see two of them rocking anime t-shirts - they are out and proud and flying their nerd flag high. And of course the album has a fantasy/anime cover art.

The Atlanta based band was formed in 2015 and "Ascension", released in May by Prosthetic Records, is their debut album. The members all have some battle experience, for example singer and guitarist Taylor Washington was live singer for the outstanding Power Metal band THEOCRACY, and played guitars live with ARSIS, guitarist Alex Parra is member of a bad-ass Thrash band SADISTIC RITUAL. The thrashing kind of Power Metal that they play is certainly technically demanding and it becomes soon clear that they have the chops that it takes to play it: shred guitar solos, precise drumming and a singer who can scream like a banshee and hit all the notes. This band is ready for prime time.

PALADIN play melodic Power Thrash with some neoclassical undertones, the songs have the bite and aggression of Thrash but also big hooks and slick lead guitar melodies. The melodies, especially in the choruses, feel often uplifting, and have a kind of cheerfulness that is reminiscent of ANGRA. But the happy, a bit cheesy vibes associated mainly with Euro-Power Metal, are nicely balanced out by the heavier, darker parts in the songs. PALADIN are doing great not just in the shredding department, but in the songwriting department as well: the choruses pop because there is an interesting contrast to the verses, and although the songs stick mostly to the classical Rock song schema in terms of structure, but they throw some interesting ideas in as well.

The album opens with an upbeat ANGRA-esque song "Awakening" full of killer leads and a driving, memorable chorus. Track number three "Carpe Diem" is also super catchy: it has thrashy a but pretty melodic verse riff, and in combination with the rasped vocals it almost has a Melodic Death Metal feeling to it; the chorus on the other hand is super melodic and uplifting. The Neo-Classical influences are apparent, for example, in the song "Fall From Grace" that has a middle-section with an arpeggiated riff and a soaring vocal melody - this part in particular reminds me strongly of SYMPHONY X. I like the compositional shift in "Bury the Light" that comes after the solo: the solo is preceded by a break with aggressive Thrash riffs, the solo, in contrast, has a cheerful tone. The song finishes with a guitar section with a very driving melodic riff that kind of synthesizes the aggressive riffs and the melodic shredding that came before. With the closer "Genesis" PALADIN venture into the Prog territory a little bit: the song starts off with a darker tone, but in the second half shifts to a more uplifting vibe.

All in all, this is a highly enjoyable, well balanced Power Thrash album with memorable and well composed songs. The level of musicianship here is outstanding and although PALADIN's music can feel a bit like an homage to the greats of the genre it does stand on its own. To me personally this is a strong contender for one of my top 10 albums this year.

8 / 10









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"Ascension" Track-listing:

1. Awakening
2. Divine Providence
3. Carpe Diem
4. Call of the Night
5. Black Omen
6. Fall from Grace
7. Bury the Light
8. Shoot for the Sun
9. Vagrant
10. Dawn of Rebirth
11. Genesis

Paladin Lineup:

Nathan McKinney - Drums
Alex Parra - Guitars
Taylor Washington - Vocals, Guitar
Andy McGraw - Bass, Vocals

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