Such is my verdict on Ascend , the fourth release from Nine Lashes. For those who didn't grow up in the Royal Rangers, the reference is to a "punishment" meted out by using a cooked spaghetti strand to "whip" the offender a certain number of times. Anyone who has ever cooked spaghetti knows how fragile it is, so it would be no surprise to know that the "whip" broke many times and had to be replaced and everything devolved into a messy and slimy scene. The laughter and embarrassment was the punishment, and I do not recall anyone ever being subjected to the indignity twice.
Which brings us back to Ascend. Nine lashes began back in 2009, in the dark period before this blog began. (Night Beat Trivia: First Post July 8, 2010). The Collide Records release is very rough but is Hard Rock top to bottom and it is not hard to see how they caught the attention of King Midas (Brandon Ebel) at Tooth and Nail Records. Their sophomore effort, World We View, dropped in February 2012 and received a rating of 4.75 Emeralds, very good for a debut, as I was unfamiliar with Escape. Anthem of The Lonely set the mark for others to follow. The follow up, From Water to War, scored an equal rating in January of 2014. However it only rated a Rock Classification. Perhaps I should have been alarmed. The line between Rock and Hard Rock is a matter of degrees.
Third (or Fourth) time is not the charm. Ascend is a bizarre cross between Anthem Lights, Newsboys and Owl City, and a bit of City Harmonic Thrown in for good measure. The problem is the artists mentioned do it better, Even the current incarnation of Newsboys. Techno Heartbeat or boy bland Deeper. No. You can do a lot better. The "Corporate" Culture is blamed, and amusingly, Kutless is trotted out as a prime example. I say amusingly because Kutless began as a Creed "clone", and to mainstream music they may have been as corporate as ever. Radio hits like With Arms Wide Open and Higher inspired quite a bit of "homages". It was only as they decided to create a more personal sound that they went wrong. I mean, I have no problem with all the FFR bands channeling their inner Amy Lee. Anyway "corporate" is codeword for Program Manager, and they still feel that anything harder than Michael W. Smith is too risky for prime time. Rap, Rock and other like music are either excluded altogether or done for about an hour after Midnight. Knowing you can record anything you want but that nobody will play it on the radio makes it hard for most bands to maintain their "standards". Until we put human beings in the Program Manager position instead of dinosaurs nothing will change.
Ascend misses the mark with a score of 3.25 Emeralds. I wish I could ship them a box of wet noodles to mete out punishment. I know it will never get there, so they will have to be satisfied with suffering the ultimate punishment there is, knowing that your work will never be considered for a Platinum Vinyl Award. Next time they should remember "If you wish to ascend out of a hole, quit digging." Until next time, I am Awaiting Your Reply.