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Ashen Reign - An angels burden 4/5

Reviewed: 8-1-11


1. The feast
2. An angels burden
3. Hope
4. Broken heart
5. Simple things
6. Prayer for the dying
7. Fear of the snake
8. The sparrow

One-man bands these days are a dime a dozen, but while there are some scattered across the globe, I feel that they should be given a decent amount of respect as they are doing it all on their own. The songwriting, playing every musical instrument, the vocals, and in most cases the CD artwork and finally, self-distribution. That’s a huge task in itself, it demands so much of these individuals’ time and once the CD is complete then it’s up to getting your name/band out there and metalheads such as yourselves tracking down the release sparked by interest from reviewers such as myself.

Ashen Reign is one such example.

From out of Atlanta, Georgia comes a talented musician named Brent McDaniel, creator of his one-man band, Ashen Reign. As far as discography goes, McDaniel released his debut CD in 2008, called ‘Immortality’ and has returned 3 years later to release his follow-up to that CD with his latest effort, entitled ‘An angels burden’. On the CD, McDaniel (as mentioned before) plays all the instruments, including guitar, bass, drums and keyboards; and also sings vocals. You have to admire his dedication to this project as there is not that many people out there who can play numerous instruments... and play them well for that matter.

Ashen Reign’s metal sound would best be described as melodic metal with traces of traditional heavy metal, progressive metal and possibly even doom rock if you can imagine such a thing. The end result is a swell of excellent melodies, powerful guitar chords, riffs and solos; combined with bold and eerie keyboards and sombre vocals to give off an atmosphere not normally achieved from a melodic metal style. Obviously the production is not as high class as the bigger and well known metal bands, but being self-produced I must say that he did a damn good job with that as well. The self-produced style works for Ashen Reign here as it highlights the amount of blood, sweat and tears that has gone into this release, plus it add an intimate touch to the recordings.

McDaniel’s vocals interest me on this CD. While most melodic/power metal vocalists sing with aggression, flair, grit and volume; Brent’s style is much more peaceful, relaxed and laid-back. It’s a softer tone that flows with the music nicely and the style draws comparisons to Katatonia vocalist Jonas Renkse. I would imagine that given the style of metal heard on this disc, that an aggressive vocal approach would not really work and would take away from the wonderful melodies and riffs that are featured throughout.

The 8 tracks that make up ‘An angels burden’ are all of a very good and consistent quality; quite diverse and each giving off its own individualism and atmosphere. “Hope” is more of a beefy track with an excellent and catchy guitar riff, drum beat and keyboard combo; with a kick-ass solo in the middle. The guitar does seem to be McDaniel’s best expertise out of all the instruments he plays, with confident and creative riffs, hooks and solos saturating each track. The best example of this would be with the instrumental track “The sparrow”. With much feeling and presence, “The sparrow” would be up the alley of every instrumental lover out there.

“Broken heart” is an interesting track, boldly and emotionally guitar driven with numerous tempo changes, the haunting keyboard sounds gives off a dark tinged feel from beginning to end. “Prayer for the dying” is one of the best tracks on the CD, a long track clocking in at just over 7 minutes; the song is just remarkable. Almost hypnotic, Brent’s vocals fit the sombre music perfectly, while his guitar riffs once again take charge and lead the way. Again, I will use Katatonia as a comparison to atmospheric style of the music and the whole 7 minutes is a wonder to listen to. Lastly, the title track of the release, “An angels burden” is another wonderfully written and performed song that is right up there with “Prayer for the dying” for best track on the CD. Highly catchy and almost addictive, the layers of guitar riffs combined with the deep drum beats, mesmerizing keyboards and Brent’s sombre monotone vocals makes for a sensational and emotional listening experience.

In the end, the main selling point of this CD is that it is different to the norm. Ashen Reign is one man’s creative and emotional thoughts, put down on paper and heard through the music he has constructed. ‘An angels burden’ is a brilliant CD that would greatly appeal to fans of melodic rock/metal and also possibly doom rock and gothic rock. Fans of bands similar to Katatonia (who I mentioned earlier) would certainly be drawn to Ashen Reign’s style of metal. There is also a great appreciation and respect to Brent McDaniel, whose dedication and persistence has led to a wonderfully crafted and well executed CD. The guy did it all on his own and credit must be given where it’s due and I now eagerly await Ashen Reign’s 3rd release.




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