Ashes of Ares - Ashes of Ares
Nuclear Blast
Trad./Power/Thrash Metal
10 songs (46:21)
Release year: 2013
Ashes of Ares, Nuclear Blast
Reviewed by Aleksie
If one sifts through my history of reviews on this site, it becomes very quickly apparent that Iced Earth and Nevermore are among my favourite bands of all time. So when word sifted through last year that Nevermore’s drummer Van Williams, Iced Earth’s now-departed-for-a-second-time vocalist Matt Barlow (also one of my favourite singers ever in general, regardless of band affiliation) and Iced Earth’s bass player (during Barlow’s second stint with the group) Freddie Vidales had joined up for a new group, I was more than a little hyped. They soon came out as Ashes of Ares and have already released their self-titled debut album a few months back. Does it live up to all the hype and potential that the background of the players brought in?

Musically, if one were to make straight comparisons to that history, AoA operates closer to the slightly-less-frills power/thrash metal fusion of Iced Earth. Really tight playing all-around, showing most notably that while Vidales was the bass player in Iced Earth, he has some legit chops on the six-stringer as well. The kind of notable prog leanings that Nevermore has excelled with are largely omitted (I wish Williams played here with a little more technical flash because he is a beast behind the drum kit), even though there are large if traditional dynamic differences between the heavier stompers like The Messenger and the acoustic intros and interludes sprinkled here and there. Even compared to Iced Earth, the vibe this album gives is more straightforward, favouring a mid-tempo approach the most. Thus I often find myself a little stuck with the, if not sluggish, then meandering pace of the tunes that run from one song to the next without enough high points or vicious hooks to keep me seriously intrigued. These simple factors make me feel ultimately disappointed with what is still a good record.

I have to emphasise that it’s not all a grey mass in terms of catchiness. Notable bright spots amidst the steady stream of “good, but…” are the excellent ballad The Answer and two speedier tracks, Move the Chains and Chalice of Man. The latter of those two has a really cool chorus where Barlow’s vocals are layered into a kind of operatic stack of different vocal lines, not really singing in canon but thereabouts. So I’m not that great with these theoretical terms, sue me. Anyhoo, this notion leads me to the biggest strength of the record: Matt Barlow’s singing. Pull out all the fanboy cards you want if his voice is not your thing but ghatdamn he sounds brilliant throughout this doozy. From his signature deep timber to the good ol’ banshee wails to even moments of a more aggressive snarl (not that much but here and there), the man still owns a microphone any way he wants to. I’d even say it becomes a bit frustrating in that a vocal performance this fookin’ good screams for more stellar songwriting behind it but with this batch of tunes, it’s not quite there.

So all in all, while I personally don’t feel that the Ashes of Ares debut lived up to the expectations (which were considerably high, must be said again), there is crazy potential in this trio. Hopefully touring will gel them together more in musical terms and the songwriting is taken up a notch in the future because in terms of sheer skills, there is so much more to be accomplished with this group. This is a good start that leaves room for much anticipation.
Killing Songs :
Move The Chains, Chalice of Man & The Answer
Aleksie quoted 73 / 100
Other albums by Ashes of Ares that we have reviewed:
Ashes of Ares - Well of Souls reviewed by Alex and quoted 84 / 100
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