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Ashes of Ares - "Ashes of Ares" (CD)

Ashes of Ares - "Ashes of Ares" CD cover image

"Ashes of Ares" track listing:

1. The Messenger (5:07)
2. Move the Chains (4:33)
3. On Warrior's Wings (5:19)
4. Punishment (5:20)
5. This Is My Hell (5:13)
6. Dead Man's Plight (4:40)
7. Chalice of Man (3:48)
8. The Answer (3:51)
9. What I Am (4:06)
10. The One-Eyed King (4:24)

Reviewed by on September 26, 2013

"There isn’t much dead air, and the album gets more intense as it goes on, combining for a solid debut that gives Ashes of Ares much to work with if the project continues all the way to another record."

Former members of Iced Earth and Nevermore unite for Ashes of Ares, a project that has more in common with the former group than the latter one. Vocalist Matt Barlow, guitarist/bassist Freddie Vidales, and drummer Van Williams rounds out the trio that makes up Ashes of Ares. This is a heavy/power metal charged ride, though the band sidetracks from time-to-time into the kind of rousing ballads that Jon Schaffer is known to write. The group plays it safe on this debut album, though that isn’t to say the album treads water the whole time.

Ashes of Ares keeps most of the passionate melodic material for the early portions of the album. “On Warrior’s Wings” skirts the line between emotional and cheesy that songs like Iced Earth’s “When The Eagle Cries” balanced on, though that’s the only honest ballad to be found. The acoustic guitars make an appearance on “This Is My Hell” before a chunky riff passes through, and “The Messenger” is a low-key start to the album that transitions into a great example of the band’s mix of soaring power metal and upbeat heavy metal.

The album isn’t just restricted to mid-tempo anthems. These guys get to throw down some heavy metal delight, like they do on the uproarious cuts “What I Am” and “Move the Chains.” As the album goes on, they seem to drop most of the laid back moments, save for the acoustic intro to “The Answer.” If a listener was kind of iffy on the band’s powerful sound with the first few songs, every song from “Dead Man’s Plight” on should be a proper wake-up call.

The only musician who feels restrained is Williams. He gets his fills in, but this is a less schizo side of him that Nevermore fans may find a little surprising. Barlow is Barlow, so if you’ve heard any of his work with Iced Earth, you know what to expect. His vocals have not diminished in power or range over the years, and they boost up these ten songs. Vidales has several strong riffs on songs like “What I Am” and “The One-Eyed King,” and his solos round the music out well.

Considering the talent involved, it would have been very difficult to put out a terrible record. Each member steps into their respective role and does an adequate job with it, though this eponymous release doesn’t completely break free like you may expect it to. There isn’t much dead air, and the album gets more intense as it goes on, combining for a solid debut that gives Ashes of Ares much to work with if the project continues all the way to another record.

Highs: Great talent involved, the album gets heavier as it goes on, Barlow's vocals are top-notch as always

Lows: Feels like the band is playing it too safe at times, uneven pacing has the slower material up front on the album

Bottom line: Featuring former members of Nevermore and Iced Earth, Ashes of Ares is a solid start that delivers on the heavy/power metal, but doesn't take enough chances.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)