Ashes of Ares - s/t 3.5/5
1. The messenger
2. Move the chains
3. On warrior's wings
5. This is my hell
6. Dead man's plight
7. Chalice of man
8. The answer
9. What I am
10. The one-eyed king
Prepare for punishment! Something wicked this way comes on the wings of a warrior, dreaming in neon black. Could the answer be Ashes of Ares? The curse is marked by the burnt offerings of the majestic vocalist – Matt Barlow, the dyspeptic guitar infusions of Frederic Vidales, and the modest endeavors of demolition drummer Van Williams. This unholy trinity have created one striking self-titled debut.
If I am to be the messenger of truth, the one I'd kindly consider to be based on heartfelt integrity, then I must confess that I did not relish the sounds of Ashes of Ares upon my first few trials. I found the music to be too similar to Iced Earth and Nevermore, and void of those vital ingredients which separate this dark saga from any other tale of the ill-fated enemies of reality. Thankfully, after several revolutions, I was able to remove the chains of delusion and discern what is meant to be heard. Having an engaging conversation with Matt Barlow truly helped me to iron out the vivid details. Anyone who cherishes his vocal melodies, and amazing articulations will truly celebrate what these 3 have crafted.
One must really involve himself in this work. One simply cannot just skim tracks, or one will miss the mettle 'neath the might. The words and wisdom of Ashes of Ares hold a vibrant dualistic nature, and may be left up to individual interpretation. “The choice is yours to tip the balance...”, as the master of law enforcement screams on “Dead man's plight”. One can view this world as being akin to dystopia, where man is vanquished by gods, and enslaved by war, left to dwell in the Ashes of Ares, or rather if the glass is half-full, then perhaps mankind has been triumphant, done away with the need for God, war and evil, and chooses to simply sift through the Ashes of Ares. Either way, the epistemological epigrams are well-pronounced.
Matt was given poetic license to write his own lyrics, and vocal harmonies when he sang for Pyramaze on the CD “Immortal”. In Iced Earth, he truly experienced the crucible of man, and not once, but twice, was faced with a grave decision to stay or go. His new alliance with Van in the ashes of the eerie conditions that destroyed a sanctuary, now nevermore, has allowed the 2 to create a new epoch of eternity, albeit heavily inspired by their previous efforts.
As for the songs themselves, each is well executed, well performed, and quite thought provoking. These are Matt's sonic suggestions, his striving to make sense of what he witnesses daily in his only private horror show. His brutal berth as a defender of justice finds him faced with wicked perpetrators and their pure evil intentions . As a graphic artist, Van must paint the portrait of faith. With the symmetrically stand-out logo, and emblazoned artwork, “the imagery becomes burned in your psyche,” to quote Mr. Barlow himself.
From the haunting overtones of “The messenger” which echoes “Dante's inferno”, the stark genesis of those who are both blessed and the dammed begins to unfold. “Move the chains” has a heavy anthem similar to “Brainwashed”, while “On warrior's wings” redounds with an interpersonal tone, reminding me heavily of John's anthem and prayer: “Watching over me”, melded to the anarchic “Believe in nothing”.
The crushing walls of “Punishment” pound like with like the angst of “Violate”, while the sober pace of “This is my hell” evoke images of “Harbinger of fate” and “Optimist or pessimist”. “Chalice of man” challenges the spirit of “Stormrider”, erupting with the presence of "Creator failure" or “Vengeance is mine”, and recapitulating with a hint of “The hunter”. The powerful imagery of “The answer” clearly proves that you may not know “Jack”! The existentially more aggressive “What I am” follow the soul's journey into these burning times of social conviction, concluding with “The last laugh” of “The one-eyed king”.
So clearly fans of their initial efforts will find little fault, but if one were to ignore those acts, and just view this as a new incarnation of inspiration, then so much more will be culled and the answer will be found, and the message better received.
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