"I'm excited to have other people listen to it and get their opinions," enthused vocalist/guitarist for The Ascended, Mat Wale, ahead of the release of their debut album Awaken Within earlier this month.
"We've had our friends listen to it but we could always use more opinions from the general public. I guess it also means we get to go and play shows so I'm excited for that. Once it's out we can get back on the road."
Releasing an album - especially your first - is a major step for any band. Aside from the work and dedication that goes into it, there is also that sense of ownership of the material which sometimes makes it hard for a band to take a step back and look at the finished product from an objective point of view.
"I guess it is a little bit," Wale agreed. "It takes up so much of your life you never really get a chance to sit back and go right... I still haven't had a chance to sit back and go okay, we've just made an album so I guess once it's out that will be the time we can look back and give our own thoughts on it. It's always been, like you said, very objective of what we have to do and making sure we've dotted all the I's and crossed all the T's so when it's out we'll get a chance to do that but we haven't yet (laughs)."
After releasing two E.P's, Awaken Within is The Ascended's first venture in full length territory, with Wale admitting there was a thought process behind it.
"We kind of had the mindset when we did the E.P's... we're three hours away from Melbourne so we're a bit out of the Melbourne scene as such and we thought it best to keep the product coming," he explained. "To keep up with all the other bands out there we had to keep that product coming so we released the two E.P's and a single more to stay relevant. Now we feel like we've built up a bit of a following and established ourselves so we had the time to sit back and say let's make an album and really show people what we're all about. I think it was a big step for us making sure in our own minds that we earned our stripes before we were ready to release an album."
While the title of the album is a bold statement, Wale says the band were more intent on leaving it as a title of self hope and exploration, rather than having a name that reflected one specific emotion.
"We wanted something that people could take and interpret their own way," he stressed. "The way to explain it is Awaken Within is whatever you feel your strength, or whatever you feel you have to offer this world. It's about finding that part that is unique about you. We don't wanna label what that might be. It's for people to kind of identify with themselves what makes them special in their own eyes and to bring that to light."
Described as a mix of groove, thrash and melodic metal, Wale sees The Ascended more as a homage to their favourite genres, while still maintaining enough of their own identity to create a sound that is definitively themselves.
"The only way that we can describe it is we play the music we love," he offered. "I think the genres of metal have changed in the last ten years. What we considered metalcore then is not metalcore now as such. For me metalcore is bands like As I Lay Dying or Killswitch Engage but they are now calling bands like In Hearts Wake and Northlane metalcore so the genres kind of move around a bit. We take key parts from bands we love and put it all together. We feel the melodic part comes in the way we do a lot of guitar harmonies and the thrash because we play fast and groove because you can bang your head to it and that's pretty much the easiest way to put it."
There is, however, a fine line between inspiration and imitation, and Wale nods in agreement when asked how difficult it is to ride that line without blurring it.
"I read somewhere that there's only so many notes you can play on an instrument," he recounted, "and from there you're always going to have something that is very similar to someone else. It's just a matter of finding yourself and trying to block out your outside sources, block out what you are really inspired by as such and finding yourself on the instrument before you really take that next step in writing a song. You're always gonna write something and think that it sounds very much like something else so you have to go back to the drawing board but it is just a matter of finding yourself. If you find yourself in the instrument you're not really gonna come up with something that's already been done because there's no-one else like you."
With so many new bands trying to establishing themselves on a daily basis, Wale says The Ascended realise the importance of standing out so as not to get caught up in the masses, and says finding that seemingly elusive ingredient is a matter of figuring out what suits your band and the way they approach their craft.
"You're right, there is a lot of bands out there," he affirmed. "You're always one band in thousands and thousands of bands so for us that's something that we heavily look into and try to think to ourselves all the time how can we be different? For us we are trying to bring back what's lost - or what we feel has been lost - especially in metal. We all watch a lot of bands and we try to bring a lot of energy. I think the main thing that we bring is crowd participation or crowd enjoyment, whether it be at a show or just doing something different. We've actually released a let's play series of video games because we're all gamers. It's just those small things that people can engage with and see the real you behind it. We're just humble man. We're just regular dudes who enjoy playing music together and enjoy giving people a good time and showing them some music. So it's about trying to be different. You've gotta show something different, because there's thousands of metal bands that do the same things but if you try and engage and do something different hopefully you'll stand out but it's still really, really hard."
As a band The Ascended are still in their relative infancy, but in that short time have steadily built a reputation that should see them capitalize with their debut album. They are raw and uncompromising, and according to Wale it is their tenacity and commitment to their art and touring that has put them in this position.
"I think that we're one of the bands that has to really fight and work hard for what we want to achieve," he surmised. "We're not one of those bands that are in the genre that is excelling at the moment because there's always a genre flavour of the month or flavour of the year so to speak and we're not in those genres that are really kicking goals at the moment but we stick to what we are and find that playing on bills with all these bands that are in this flavour that we stand out and we're something different and we get a positive response from that. We're just a hard working, honest band. I think that's where we fit. We're the band that will go on the road twenty to forty times and do that twice a year to play to whoever it might be and not care. We're the band who will work hard and love it regardless and do it for the love of the music. That's where we fit."
Purchase Link: https://www.merchr.net/collections/the-ascended
THE ASCENDED 'AWAKEN WITHIN' AUSTRALIAN TOUR
For all ticketing enquiries, go the band's official Facebook Page
May 5th, Melbourne VIC - Last Chance Rock N' Roll Bar*
May 11th, Warrnambool VIC - The Loft*
June 1st, Ballarat VIC - Karova Lounge
June 8th, Warrnambool VIC - The Loft
June 22nd, Mt Gambier SA - The South Aussie Hotel
June 23rd, Adelaide SA - Enigma Bar
July 6th, Canberra ACT - The Basement
July 7th, Sydney NSW - The Record Crate
* 'Awaken Within' Launch Shows