Album Reviews

Ashes Of Ares – Ashes Of Ares Review

ashes of ares_cover

Released By: Nuclear Blast

Release Date: September 17. 2013

Genre: Heavy Metal

Links: http://www.ashesofares.com/Ashes_of_Ares_cover.html

 

Line Up:

Matt Barlow – Vocals

Freddie Vidales – Guitar

Van Williams – Drums

 

Tracklist:

1. The Messenger

2. Move The Chains

3. On Warrior’s Wings

4. Punishment

5. This Is My Hell

6. Dead Man’s Plight

7. Chalice Of Man

8. The Answer

9. What I Am

10. The One Eyed King

 

As a longtime fan of Iced Earth, I had been anxiously awaiting this self-titled debut from new project Ashes of Ares ever since I first heard of it. The reason: As much as I like the aforementioned band musically, and as happy as I was with their latest album Dystopia, I always thought they were at their best with former vocalist Matt Barlow, and I was sad when his return to the band ended up being so brief. So needless to say, I was excited to see what this new band would come up with. He’s joined by another former member of Iced Earth, as well as the former drummer of Nevermore, so I figured this would be good, and after listening to it several times I can confirm it definitely is a great start for what will hopefully be a long lasting band.

Fans of Iced Earth will immediately notice some similarities here, which is not at all a surprise. It definitely has that same kind of aggressive guitar sound going on, though if anything I’d say this album has a much more classic heavy metal feel to it than anything Iced Earth has ever done, and while there are some thrashy riffs here and there, it never gets as flashy or as speedy as some of Jon Schaffer’s best work. Instead, there’s often a laid back feel to the album, as it’s very vocal driven and the tempo only picks up in very quick bursts. In that regard, it’s a very focused and cohesive album, in that once you’ve heard a couple songs you should have a good feel for what to expect from the rest, but instead of this working against the album, it’s actually a good thing as the songwriting is consistently solid the whole way through, and nothing sticks out in a bad way, while there are still a few huge highlights.

As my opening paragraph would indicate, the main draw of the band for me (and I assume many other people as well) is Matt Barlow. I was actually a bit concerned after hearing The Crucible Of Man a few years back, as he appeared disinterested in the music and gave a rather flat and unexciting performance by his standards. Thankfully he seems more energetic this time, and his vocals here are about as awesome as they were on the classic Something Wicked This Way Comes, with all aspects of his voice in full effect, including his excellent calm vocals on ballads, his low roars on the more aggressive sections and, yes, his epic falsetto appears in quick bursts and still sounds as awesome as ever.

The first highlight of the album comes right at the start, as “The Messenger” has a very nice intro with Matt showcasing his softer vocals, before the rest of the band comes in and we get a very epic foreboding moment that gets the listener ready for something dark and brutal to come in the remainder of the song, and it certainly delivers. Barlow is in peak form, effortlessly switching from his low register to his falsetto during the verses, and you can instantly tell he’s more into this album than he has been into any other album he’s done in quite a while. Musically, the song also gives listeners a great idea of what to expect, as sounds like a heavier Iced Earth song but slowed down, and with a bit more emphasis on the melodies, which is definitely true of the entire album. It definitely delivers the riffs as well, but on the whole it is a very melodic album, with some incredible vocal lines.

After that it’s a bit harder to pick out highlights, because the whole album is very consistent, though my favorite is probably “On Warrior’s Wings”. Without knowing anything about the lyrics going in, I could instantly tell it was a very personal song for Matt, just because of how emotional and passionate his vocals are. And indeed, this song is about the death of one of his friends, and one thing that makes it awesome is that while it is a ballad, he pulled it off in such a way that it doesn’t feel cheesy at all, but instead it’s very fiery and very powerful. It also has a really awesome speedy part in the middle, though obviously the vocals and lyrics are the focus here. Fans looking for some thrash elements will likely be pleased with “Chalice Of Man” and “What I Am”, which are definitely the two most aggressive songs on the album.

Sometimes when a new project forms involving former members of successful bands, the results can be disappointing. Thankfully, Ashes Of Ares are an example of such a band that takes select elements from the previous work of everyone involved, and combines it into a focused and cohesive album that delivers everything fans would expect, while having its own distinct feel. While I’ve focused a lot on the vocals, I can assure that everything else about the album is also top notch, and on the whole it’s a very strong debut and highly recommended for fans of Iced Earth, and also for fans of traditional heavy metal in general.

 

Written by Travis

Ratings    Travis    8/10

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