By Samantha Wu

Toronto’s Ascendia is a beautiful blend of dichotomies – described on their bio as ‘beautiful but brutal’ and ‘chaotic but calculated’. When you listen to their debut release The Lion and the Jester, that’s exactly what you hear. They’re local talents serving up some of the best symphonic metal on this side of the pond. If you’re a fan of Nightwish, Within Temptation, or Kamelot, and want to support the homegrown talent of a few great Toronto lads, check out Ascendia.

The Lion and the Jester is the type of album that you may not instantaneously love but it grows on you and seeps under the skin. It starts with Nick Sakal’s voice, which is incredibly rich, strong and emotive as he delivers highly metaphorical and poetic lyrics making for a great hour of deep listening. Songs like “Moonchild” and the slow and somber ballads “Last Forever” and “The Song that You Deserved” are ones that stay with me long after the album is over.

The musicianship is also something very notable. The rest of the band is comprised of brothers John Lov (lead guitar and backing vocals) and Billy Lov (drums), Maestro (keyboards), and John Abanador (bass). It’s what you expect from a symphonic metal band – a well-rounded sound that makes for songs that sound full and complex. There’s a lot going on in each song without feeling overcrowded or cacophonous. “Faded Away” and the title track “The Lion and the Jester” are prime examples of this.

The Lion and the Jester was released late last year and now is as good a time as any to get in to support this band – and take advantage of the opportunity to support a great cause. Currently Ascendia is donating 50% of all merchandise sales to support the Canadian Red Cross’ International Fund. More information can be found on Ascendia’s Facebook page.

It’s clear that the road ahead for Ascendia is paved with great opportunities – they have a very strong debut album, one that sounds well-honed and crafted and quite mature. They’re drawing from a strong reservoir of talent and they’re already a band that’s willing to give back to where it matters, straight from their own debut album. This is clearly a band worth checking out.