"some music was meant to stay underground..."

Ashen Reign - "An Angels Burden" (CD)

Ashen Reign - "An Angels Burden" CD cover image

"An Angels Burden" track listing:

1. The Feast (4:17)
2. An Angels Burden (6:12)
3. Hope (5:18)
4. Broken Heart (5:23)
5. Simple Things (4:12)
6. Prayer For the Dying (7:05)
7. Fear of the Snake (4:51)
8. The Sparrow (4:16)

Reviewed by on August 30, 2011

"With a laid-back gothic rock meets power metal approach to music, Ashen Reign’s latest album is a unique take on styles that’s enjoyable to listen to and shows some serious instrumental skill from band mastermind Brent McDaniel."

“An Angel’s Burden” is another win for the slowly expanding solo metal world, and for a bit of diversity this time it’s not something produced by a one-man black metal band. With a laid-back gothic rock meets power metal approach to music, Ashen Reign’s latest album is a unique take on styles that’s enjoyable to listen to and shows some serious instrumental skill from band mastermind Brent McDaniel.

Although the base of the music is built on power metal, and there are heavier solos that would work on more extreme releases, the sound is generally somewhat catchy, melodic, and even easy going. The vocal work shows some range and changes up slightly between songs, with the overall direction headed towards rock or goth. Composed entirely of clean singing, the vocals bring to mind an earlier era in metal and in parts sound quite a bit like a more sober Ozzy.

Symphonic keyboards have a recurring role throughout the album, but the focus remains on rockin’ guitar solos. The fantastic guitar work and great interplay between the various instruments (doubly impressive as they are all played by one person) are easily the main draw to “An Angel’s Burden.”

Despite all the good bits, there are patches where the musical ideas don’t gel well and the do-it-yourself nature of the music shines through. “Broken Heart” tries to be an emotional ballad, but the slow moving nature of the track gets repetitive and boring. Ending track “The Sparrow” suffers in much the same way, with the overall lack of aggressive sounds leading to inadvertent repetition. That’s probably the biggest issue with the unique style found on the album: there just isn’t as much aggression or force as would be found in many other metal projects, or even from other melodic acts. It’s nice for a change of pace, but unfortunately doesn’t leave as strong an impression in a listener’s mind after the disc ends.

For every segment that doesn’t work well, there’s three or four others that more than make up for it, and the interesting blend of power metal and gothic rock is worth hearing. Hopefully the metal fans will see more from Ashen Reign’s sole member, and possibly by branching out in different ways. Is it even possible to have a solo metal supergroup? If so Brent McDaniel should try hooking up with other prolific solo metal acts like Hellveto or Autumns Eyes to blow the socks off the metal world.

Highs: Great guitar solos and fantastic power metal bent to the music.

Lows: An overall lack of force and some repetitive elements.

Bottom line: Solo metal act Ashen Reign creates a unique blend of power metal and goth/rock.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls


Key
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)