I love discovering new music, especially when it comes out of the blue. I had a review request in with regard to new US progressive rock group Ascher and I respected the opinion of the PR guy who had sent me the album so, as a favour, I listened to their debut release ‘Beginnings’ and the rest, as they say, is history…
The band features Doug Bowers (guitars, bass, keys, vocals), Blake Dickeson (rhythm guitars), Rob Perez (lead guitar) and Kyle Graves (lead vocals). Doug and Rob have been collaborating on one another’s projects for years. Toward the end of 2022, Bowers began collaborating with guitarist, Blake, fleshing out some musical ideas that he had developed over the years, Rob was brought in to add tasty lead guitar to the effort. Rob suggested a singer that he had recently encountered, Kyle was writing lyrics for an upcoming album for Rob and Rob felt he would be a perfect fit for Ascher. Rob was right and the band was complete.
The album contains five instrumental pieces and four songs, clocks in at fifty-seven minutes and will keep fans of melodic progressive rock with hook laden grooves extremely happy. Opening instrumental, catchily titled Beginnings, has a proper Rush feel from the restrained opening to the elegantly powerful guitar lines and thunderous rhythm section. Rob’s guitar guides a perfect path through this funky piece and you are immediately drawn in to Ascher’s intriguing musical world. There’s an almost 80’s pop-prog (think ‘90125’ era Yes or Peter Gabriel material of that time) quality to the opening of In The Clear Distance, an urgent, staccato guitar riff and dynamic vocals keep this energetic track at a high-tempo pace, of particular note are the harmonised chorus, the groovy keys and, once again, the fleeting guitar licks that always bring a smile to my face, this album has definitely grabbed my attention now! Next comes one of the best songs on the album, the brilliant The Great Divide. From it’s slow burning opening with its emotive vocals and stirring piano, this track grabs your attention and doesn’t let go, musically it has a feel of Marillion at their best and I’m a big fan of that band! A powerful ballad with a passionate chorus that just bleeds emotion, it’s a track I have returned to many times and will continue to do so. Hard rock, bluesy grooves abound on the lively, funk laden Ransom For The Righteous with its super stylish vintage keys and sunny, west-coast, outlook. One of the best rock instrumentals you will here in a long time, blending 80’s hard rock with the laid back sound of the 70’s just about perfectly, another stand out track on what is turning out to be the most surprising releases of the year so far. De Profundis (‘out of the depths’ to you and me) takes a dark and solemn turn with its mysterious opening and enigmatic vocals. You find yourself almost holding your breath in expectation as this cryptic track takes you on a journey into the unknown. All seems to be revealed as a flowering guitar opens up the dark into the light and drags you along with it and you truly do come ‘out of the depths’. It’s very clever songwriting as the twilight refuses to be subdued and tries to return, this ying and yang of darkness and light is really clever and makes for an very engrossing piece of music.
I love the instrumental, Nail Soup. A chance for these musicians to let their hair down and just enjoy themselves, it flows perfectly and is just a highly enjoyable five and a half minutes where you just forget your troubles, sit down with a beer, tap your toes and smile. The polished songwriting continues with the captivating brilliance of What The World Can’t Give, another hard rock infused prog masterpiece that really powers along, fuelled by the chugging riff pairing of guitar and keyboards. This track will surely be a monster live, its high energy intensity is addictive and compelling and the guitar playing is just stellar! Wheels Turning Now is wistful, nostalgic and melancholic in equal measure and dances along with a lightness of touch that you just marvel at. You have to say that Ascher are bloody good at writing excellent instrumentals and this is another one that has me humming along and nodding my head in time to the music. The album I have closes with the bonus track The Instrumental Divide (everyone needs the version with this wonderful piece of music on) and closes on an extreme high. Rob is channelling is inner guitar hero (be it Satriani, Schon or Vai or any of the other guitar legends out there) and he is on fire, literally! This glorious instrumental bleeds emotion, passion and many other things to leave you open mouthed in admiration and just begging for more, what a way to sign off this incredible release!
When it comes to music, an unexpected surprise is a rare thing nowadays so when one arrives in your inbox it really must be cherished. With ‘Begginings’, Ascher have really set the bar high for debut releases and set themselves on the path to what should be a successful career, it has certainly got my attention and I have to say that, for me, it is a definite highlight of 2023 so far and I’m sure will still be up there when the year ends.
Released 16th March, 2023.
Order the album from bandcamp here: