Q : First of all, Please introduce Divine Ascension history to the Thai metalhead.
Karl: Divine Ascension is a female fronted, progressive metal band from Melbourne, Australia. The band formed in 2007 where the original members Rob and Luke were already jamming with a few other people at this stage. Jen joined a little while later being only new the metal scene. She was from a theatre and cabaret type background but she was quite interested in the arrangements and unique vocal melodies that came with the metal genre. Personally, I was a late addition to the band and joined after all the other members were part of the project.
Before we started playing a few local shows around Melbourne, we felt needed a product, a demo showcasing what we were about musically. So our roughly cut, live demo was recorded in later 2007. We released it locally and had many more local shows including some memorable ones with bands such as Vanishing Point, Lord and Crimsonfire as well as a benefit show for the PBS radio station.
All the while we continued writing and perfecting the material for our debut album As The Truth Appears which we recorded over a period of a year or so. During the stage of producing the album, we parted ways with a few members and had the difficulty of getting the album finished with only four members. However, we persisted, finished the album and finally found two new members in Dave our keyboardist and Simon our bassist.
Not to long after this we signed with international management, Intromental, and they assisted us in landing a deal with both Nightmare Records and Hydrant Music for As The Truth Appears. As The Truth Appears was released worldwide on October 11, 2011 and in Japan on October 12, 2011.
Q : How did the name Divine Ascension come from? What is the meaning behind it?
Karl & Robb: We came up with the word Ascension to reflect the uplifting aspects of our sound and also to describe our ambitions as a group to ascend to the forefront of the worldwide heavy metal stage. However, we wanted another word to go with it and Rob came up with Ascension Day. Kind of reminded us of Evergrey's song Recreation Day. But when reading a review of a recent live show, the word Divine was used to describe Jen's voice. I think it was actually Luke's initial idea to put that together with ascension to form Divine Ascension, which we also felt suited the majestic side of the music. From that day Divine Ascension was born.
Q : I listened to your first demo few years ago and it’s great to see Divine Ascension release their first album. How was the reception from your first demo? And how did Nightmare records sign you?
Karl: Yes it is great to see (laughs)! It has been a long process for us, so getting it out into the world is great! Our first demo was just that, a demo. We recorded, mixed and mastered it live in the studio over just two days and intended it only to score us local gigs at a few local venues with a few local bands. Key word there being ‘local’, we didn’t expect it to be used for anything else. However, some metal shows on a couple of local radio stations picked it up and started playing it quite frequently to our surprise. It took off from there. The demo definitely exceeded our initial expectations.
Signing with Nightmare Records was quite a simple process for us. We had just put the finishing touches on the album in the recording and artwork departments when we signed with Intromental Management. Those guys marketed the album to quite a few labels all over the world including Nightmare Records (and Hydrant Music who we are signed to in Japan). Lance King really liked the band and album, which to mine and I am sure the others in the band, was quite humbling being he is a legend in the scene and has been for many years. We signed with both those labels and As The Truth Appears was released worldwide a few months later.
Q : What can we expect from over 60 minutes song on the album?
Karl: Female fronted, melodic, symphonic, progressive metal. Hows that for a description (laughs)? It's very hard describing our music as a collection and many people have that difficulty. But what you can expect musically from As The Truth Appears is a collection of songs that are very catchy with plenty of heavy guitars, bass and drums, yet epic sounding keyboards, but never over the top and bombastic.
Robb: Lyrically, this album is a journey through the trials and tribulations of life and covers a wide range of themes and emotions. The music is a match for the wonderful talents of Jennifer and rises and falls with the power/passion she portrays.
Q : To have female vocalist, you may have some people compare Divine Ascension to such bands as Nightwish, After Forever, Epica. Does Divine Ascension have any influences from the band I just mention?
Karl: Of course. It's inevitable. Those bands are pioneers and heavyweights in the genre and are known for having female singers. All the members of Divine Ascension are big fans of all those bands. In fact, I have all their albums and DVD's as well as many other bands and projects that have female singers such as ReVamp, To-Mera, Within Temptation, etc. What makes us different from those bands is we also, as a band, draw other influences from a very large range of music. Personally, I listen to a lot of jazz fusion as well as progressive metal and heavier areas of metal like death metal and technical metal. Whereas some of the others listen to a lot of symphonic metal, male fronted prog/power bands etc. When we write and arrange, we tend to draw from all these influences and, I think, create something a little unique and different.
Robb: While each of these bands were definitely an influence on our overall sound we wanted to add a slight slant to the genre by adding a few more “surprise” moments with a touch of progression just to add a little spice. As Karl mentioned, both he and I are influenced a lot more by some heavier bands so a lot of this shines through in our writing and playing and I’m sure now we’ve baptised Jen into the world of “metal” we can get a little more “loud”, so to speak!
Q : How does Borg put her theatrical and cabaret trained experience to Divine Ascension performance? Except of all these training, did she also have vocal training as well?
Karl: I find Jen to be very expressive when she sings live. She really believes in the words she is singing and you can see that in her facial expressions as well as her movements on stage. She tends to be very active which is something many people who come to our live shows say is very cool. Rather then the gig being a live show, it is a performance. Jen definitely adds to that with her theatrical experience. She also plays piano and a few other instruments. Jen is very talented. Puts me to shame (laughs)!
Jen: I like to create an atmosphere when I am on stage where I am able to share the live experience and music with the audience, which, I believe is an important - yet sometimes a challenging feat. Classical vocal training began for me at the age of 15, and I was very lucky to have a brilliant teacher from Opera Australia. Whilst I did not really enjoy singing classical pieces, my teacher encouraged me to push boundaries and sing contemporary styles with classical teaching.
Q : How does your album represent of? I saw, in the cover, there’s a girl play with sand on the shore. What was the idea behind it?
Karl: The album is not really a concept album in itself. All the songs have themes based around a similar idea, which is about civilisation in general, and the world we live in. The songs all draw from experiences and feelings we all may have in day to day life. For example, Vision Divine is about having that special someone that is always there through thick and thin, Another Battlefield tells the tale of someone who has done something they later regret. They are forced to deal with the battlefield, or war, raging inside their mind caused from guilt. Whereas Answers, is about a relationship that ended abruptly leaving one person in the dust and echoes crying out for just a simple answer as to why it had to end.
The idea with the artwork is that it represents our civilisation and the world we live in. With the booklet spread out you can see the city with the storm approaching in the background. The little girl building the sandcastle signifies that sometimes we cannot fix what we have created or where we have ended up, so we must start from scratch and build the foundations again but learning from our past mistakes.
Robb: Yes, as Karl mentioned, the overall concept of the album cover was to have a representation of future generations “starting over” again. The girl on the cover was chosen to represent the innocence of this starting over/new beginnings. She is also pointing out across the water towards the city, perhaps suggesting of the burdens left for these future generations. In the background are the remnants of previous generations with the city alluding to our reliance on technology while the overcast and stormy skies approaching could signify our uncertain future.
Q : I heard that in your first single will have Silvio of Vanishing Point as a guest. How was the relationship with you and VP? Is it true that Vanish Point is the biggest Prog/Power Metal band from Australia?
Karl: Yes it will. The song, Answers will feature Silvio. He is a great guy as well as great musician just like the rest of Vanishing Point. We have had the pleasure of sharing the stage with Vanishing Point on numerous occasions here in Melbourne. So it was a great honour to have Silvio appear on our album too. I always hate labelling the biggest or the best band of certain areas or genre's, because there are just so many quality bands out there. But in a nutshell however, I would say that Vanishing Point is definitely one of the biggest Prog/Power Metal bands from Australia. But there are many others out there too! Make sure you hunt around for them!
Robb: Vanishing Point is a great band and an exceptionally wonderful group of guys. Silvio heard from us as we desperately needed a vocalist to finalise the album after a previous member left. The song “Answers” originally was a duet co-sung by a departing member. Silvio was gracious enough to lend us his services both for the album and for the film clip. We also snuck him in on background vocals for “Another Battlefield” on the album too! We have a few prog/power bands in Melbourne & Australia, and yes, VP are among the greatest and have helped pave the way for bands like us to have the door open a little easier than perhaps before.
Q : Do you have a plan to play outside country? How was the reception from the international fans?
Karl: Definitely! It is a personal dream of mine and I know all the other guys (and gal) share the same dream. So we definitely plan to. It all depends on how well our album is received in different parts of the world. The reception from our international fans, and in general, fans of metal across the globe has been phenomenal! We are extremely humbled by the feedback we get from individual messages and emails we get from people across the globe saying how much they have enjoyed our music
Robb: Yes, we definitely want to play outside of Australia. This has been a long term goal for each of us so we hope this album gives us an opportunity to do so. Our international fans have been extremely welcoming, especially when there are so many great bands worldwide, yet they still find the time to give us a listen and response. Thank you all.
Q : It seems there’s not mush prog metal band in Australia. Can you tell us about prog metal scene in your country?
Robb: The prog/power scene here in Australia is rather small but we do get some great shows here fairly regularly now, but nothing like Europe or the US. The reason for this, I think, is so many bands here play varying styles like prog/power, thrash, melodic death, hardcore, etc, yet we still gig with one another which makes for some interesting nights!
As far as prog goes we have great proponents of the genre who have been flying the flag internationally for sometime now like Vanishing Point, Voyager, Black Majesty, Eyefear and a few more but the general Melbourne metal head tends to sway a little more towards straight power metal more. Perhaps this is because there are also a lot of thrash bands and their fans may relater to power metal more so than prog, who knows (laughs)!
Q : Is it hard to get attention from Australian people since I heard, from Australian bands, that most people don’t like to support their own local bands.
Robb: Yes it is quite a struggle here, but mainly due to the small metal community we have being fragmented into the many genres...when we gather together we can make a great crowd, like when international bands hit our shores, but local gigs are scattered and not terribly populated. The fans that do support local bands here purchase quite a bit of merchandise and stay loyal to their favourite bands.
What is funny about Australia is local bands seem to get a little more attention once they have made a name for themselves overseas...it seems we like to claim our bands as “ours” once they’ve made a name for themselves elsewhere.
Q : Finally, please say something to Thai Metalhead and thank you for interviewing with us.
Robb: We hope you enjoy “As the truth appears” and we thankyou for your interest in us. We would love to come and play for you guys as you’re not too far away from us...I’d swim if I had to (laughs).
We’d like to hear from you telling us about your metal scene there.
Thank you again for your time and interest.
Robb and Divine Ascension