Ashes of Ares
Ashes of Ares
09 September 2013
With genre revivalism rife, being labelled as just “traditional heavy metal” could well be a kiss of death for a brand new band. Luckily for Ashes of Ares, however, they’ve got years of experience, not to mention credibility on their side. Having left Iced Earth for the second time, singer Matt Barlow has assembled a heavy metal supergroup comprising of guitarist Freddie Vidales and ex-Nevermore drummer Van Williams for Ashes of Ares.
Album opener ‘The Messenger’ quickly establishes Barlow’s voice as the focal point of the record, sounding reinvigorated and better than he has done in years. The track smacks of Iced Earth (as do plenty of others on the album) but that’s mainly due to those tight vocal harmonies that are a signature of his – those low, guttural grumbles layered with mid-range wails and high screams. However, Barlow also shows more versatility than ever, doing an excellent Rob Halford impression on the fast-paced ‘Move the Chains’, and excelling at using the softer, more emotive side of his voice on ‘On Warrior’s Wings’ and ‘The Answer’.
It’s difficult at times to tell whether the vocals are the only thing that makes Ashes of Ares a great album, rather than just a good one. That’s not to take away from the talents of the other band members, who’ve helped craft a record that’s complex without being overly technical, and big-sounding without the use of any superfluous symphonic frills. They also haven’t overproduced it, with chunky rhythm guitars and a lead tone that make Vidales’ solos sound slick but not soulless. There are some spine-tingling moments on ‘Dead Man’s Plight’, but arguably it’s Barlow who helps push an otherwise solid but straightforward heavy metal record up a notch.
Watch the lyric video (urgh) for ‘Dead Man’s Plight’ by Ashes of Ares:
Compared to their former bands’ work, Ashes of Ares is easily better than Iced Earth’s The Crucible of Man: Something Wicked Part 2, but still not quite at the level of classic Nevermore albums such as This Godless Endeavour. Ashes of Ares certainly have a lot to live up to, but with their debut album being a near-perfect example of intelligent, melodic heavy metal, they have a bright future ahead.
Sounds Like: Iced Earth, Judas Priest
Standout Tracks: Move the Chains, On Warrior’s Wings, Dead Man’s Plight