Aspire - Quest Eternal
Symphonic Power Metal
8 songs (48:41)
Release year: 2005
Reviewed by Ken

Aspire is a band I discovered through our wonderfully trendy MySpace page. I listened to the clips on the band’s page and was impressed enough to pick this album up from CD Baby. Aspire is the product of just two musicians, Ryan Metzger (all vocals) and Al Candello (all instrumentation and programming). Formed in 2004, they quickly released a demo EP called All Ahead in 2005, followed immediately by this, their debut full-length, Quest Eternal.

When I first got the album I was a little disappointed from the onset, the opening track, “Living In A Dream,” has a hollow sound with the vocals, it sounds like Metzger recorded them at the bottom of an empty well (though just on this track, for some odd reason). It took me a while to get used to them, but eventually they clicked, bolstered by the great accompanying music. This is symphonic power metal with a progressive edge at its DIY (do-it-yourself, noob!) finest. The keyboards and orchestration doesn’t sound like it does on a Therion or recent Blind Guardian album, the drums are programmed and lack that sonic punch that you hear from the likes of Gene Hoglan, the guitar tones are crisp and crunchy, but could be more so. All of these factors take away from the album—albeit slightly, though glaringly—but it’s a clear cut case of a band doing the best job with what they have, and Aspire has done a very good thing with the self-released/produced Quest Eternal.

As I mentioned, “Living In A Dream,” may take some getting used to because of the high reverb (echo) on the vocals, but the song is heavy and epic with tons of double-bass—which will generally sound perfectly normal to the untrained ear—great melodies, solos and orchestration. “Lost Forevermore” is a mid-paced symphonic metal piece that recalls Hall Of The Mountain King-era Savatage. Things pick up with “All Ahead” and “Riding With The King,” two of three songs taken from the debut EP; both are speedy, double-bass-filled tracks with simple, yet extremely catchy choruses (the former features some riffs that sound very similar to Def Leppard’s 1980 fan favorite “Wasted”). “As Many Years (Go Passing By)” reminds me of “Still Loving You” (Scorpions) at the beginning, but slowly pulls away from that comparison and just slowly sways, shifts and snakes its way through almost six minutes of melodious mediocrity. It’s done well, but stacked up against the first four tracks it’s missing that which would keep it from becoming a brick wall: a hook. As if knowing it’s got some ground to make up, the band fires back with “From The Shadows,” the third song taken from the debut EP, and the fastest and most symphonic song on the album, a great tune. A metal song that borrows a few rock riffs follows in the name of “The Liberator,” a pretty good tune with some really cool breakdowns, and piano/keyboard/solo interludes mixed in throughout, a nice subtle chorus punctuates with the help of those rock riffs. The very end of the song, the final twenty seconds, gets sucker-punched by some double-bass work that sounds a little out of place or off rhythm. “Final Serenade” closes the album on a slow, melodic note that does less for the album than “As Many Years (Go Passing By).” Again, not necessarily a bad song, but there’s nothing really there to latch onto, it’s just there, moping along.

Overall a very good debut full-length that isn’t without a few dings, dents and scratches. As I mentioned earlier, for what the band is working with they’ve done a great job, but some songs could have been better realized, and Metzger’s vocals occasionally falter in strength; there are moments where I just wish there was a little more power and variation, that added Oomph! that puts it over the top. It’s a well done album for just two guys from New York, one that definitely impressed me, but I’m hoping that their upcoming follow-up, Repentance, due this Fall, has resolved some of the issues that Quest Eternal suffers from (the samples on their site indicate they have remedied some of them). The flaws are few, but they are very noticeable. Still, it's a solid debut full-length, one that I recommend in spite of its weak spots, though on a try-before-you-buy basis.

AUDIO: Lost Forevermore, All Ahead, Living In A Dream, Riding With The King and From The Shadows

Note: In time these links will likely becoming outdated.

Killing Songs :
Lost Forevermore, Living In A Dream, Riding With The King, All Ahead and From The Shadows
Ken quoted 70 / 100
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