Ashes of Ares

Ashes of Ares

Written by: EW on 14/09/2013 10:15:55

After leaving, rejoining and leaving Iced Earth it is no surprise to see Matt Barlow back at the helm of a metal band once again. He may have decided that the police force was his calling but anyone who has heard his voice can attest the man was born to sing in a heavy metal band - his power, range and gravitas remains matched by very few, all of which makes his membership of this post-Iced Earth/post-Nevermore project far more interesting. Yes the be-gingered one did sing on Pyramaze's "Immortal" record in 2008 but that always felt like a session participation, but with Ashes of Ares his involvement runs much deeper than that.

The overall sound of this self-titled debut combines Nevermore's power and groove - albeit minus the sublime guitar skills of their Jeff Loomis - with the Iced Earth inclinations of Barlow, resulting in a riff-heavy tome that also at times recalls Control Denied's sole album. Being an amalgamation of the three however gives "Ashes of Ares" a lack of definable identity: there are the heavy, thrashier numbers such as "Move the Chains", "Punishment" and "What I Am" which sit comfortably in their own skin alongside the slow, ballad feels of "The Answer" and the rising "On Warrior's Wings" where I am struggling to notice the sentimentality of Iced Earth's frequent slower moments (during the Barlow era at least). Don't put this down to a lack of skill on the part of the practioners behind Ashes of Ares; ex-Nevermore's Van Williams puts in a more natural drum performance than was the case on latter Nevermore records, and Freddie Vidales has written a number of decent, if unspectacular riffs; no, it is just that it feels as if this band exists as a pure outlet for the creative juices that were not permissible in their previous bands due to the dominance of other members in those acts. Take the album cover for instance: it looks more like the cover of a work in progress, before a direction has been decided upon, than a finished product on the giant Nuclear Blast records.

So what if the cover is dull, you may ask. Well the production in the guitars is flush with bottom end and easily approachable, built on rhythms much simplified from the recognisable triplets at the heart of Iced Earth. All 10 songs are of a standard length and structure so leave your desires for any repeats of "Travel in Stygian" or "Dante's Inferno" at the door my friend as they are not to be found here, but with a European tour fast approaching we will soon find out how well they translate to the live arena. If it were not for the strength of Mr. Barlow I would not give them a chance of succeeding but Ashes of Ares' greatest asset will at least provide a platform to work from on future records.

6

Download: Punishment, On Warrior’s Wings, What I Am
For The Fans Of: Iced Earth, Nevermore, Control Denied
Listen: Facebook

Release date: 06.09.2013
Nuclear Blast Records

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