Ashes of Ares – Ashes of Ares
Release Date: September 6, 2013
It’s always the highlight of my year when I discover a new “Who’s Who” of heavy metal, all-star line-up releasing a full-length album. Sometimes, they can really flop, sounding nearly identical to one of the member’s bands, like nothing at all has changed, and only release one album – maybe two. That being said however, some of these all-star mash-ups end up creating a freight train of hard-hitting heavy metal that doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon. Sometimes they succeed in seemingly blending the influence from each member so perfectly that an entirely new and original sound comes soaring out of your speakers. Enter Ashes of Ares, the new project of ex-Iced Earth and Nevermore members, forming in 2012 and preparing the release of their debut, self-titled full-length in September.
Fronting the band is truly a name that needs no introduction (though I plan to give one anyway), Matt Barlow. Despite the mile long “past members” list for American heavy metal band Iced Earth, Barlow fronted the band for the majority of their career thus far, boasting one of the most original and most recognized voices in American metal. He left the band, along with bassist (turned guitarist) Freddie Vidales in 2012 to focus on other acts, particularly Ashes of Ares. Joined by ex-Nevermore drummer, Van Williams, Ashes of Ares proves to live up to the destructive, war-drenched name the band has been given.
The album runs up and down like a roller coaster from straight up thrashing, in your face American metal, to a more toned down and melodic side to the artists. It’s easy to hear the influence of all of the member’s past bands, yet they each definitely brought some new songwriting to the table. “The Messenger” opens the album up with a mellow and melodic guitar line, featuring Barlow’s insanely haunting, layered vocals. The chills immediately travel up my spine, right up until the song really kicks into gear. Moving on throughout the album, tracks “On Warriors Wings” and “This is My Hell” feature great groove, showcasing beautiful melodies and harmonies left and right between Barlow’s voice and the guitar lines. Meanwhile, the drum parts remain simple yet constructive, especially in “This is My Hell” where they are responsible for pushing along this musical tension, building-up to the song’s liberation. The falsetto vocal touches in this song really push it over the top for me, and it is easily my favorite moment on the album.
While there are some tracks that get somewhat repetitive and lose my interest, the album redeems itself with “Chalice of Man” that hits hard and doesn’t let up. Immediately following is the album’s ballad-like moment, “The Answer”. Barlow soars above the music in the beginning, but the distorted guitar and bass lines answer quickly and the song picks up into a great tune. The lyrics are seriously emotional and heart-felt, which definitely isn’t lacking on the album (see “What I Am”), but it really sticks out on this song specifically. The slower tempo fits Barlow’s pipes perfectly, and the layered harmonies are flawless.
As a whole, the album moves along unbelievably fast, despite the few tracks that do get repetitive. The songs are so creatively arranged, topped off with the god-like vocals of Matt Barlow, I really don’t see how anyone could pass up on this record. Right now, they have “Dead Man’s Plight” as a lyric video (see below), along with snippets of “The Messenger” and “The One Eyed King” on YouTube. If I still haven’t persuaded you on the music, have at it!
I beg you to check out this new, unbelievable legacy that these men are creating! It will not disappoint!
Ashes of Ares is:
Matt Barlow (ex-ICED EARTH) – Vocals
Freddie Vidales (ex-ICED EARTH) – Guitar & Bass
Van Williams (ex-NEVERMORE) – Drums