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Ashes Of Ares Emperors And Fools

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Album Review: ASHES OF ARES Emperors And Fools

7.5 Reviewer
Score

You likely know Matt Barlow as the one-time lead vocalist of Iced Earth, and whether you're a power metal fan or not, there's a strong likelihood you know of the band. Ashes Of Ares was created a few years by Barlow after he exited Iced Earth after 2008's The Crucible of Man: Something Wicked Part 2 along with bassist Freddie Vidales, who left after the 2011 Dystopia record.

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So let's get to the record. "Monster's Lament" is an eleven minute plus epic track that closes out the record and stands out as it's best song. It really acts as the cornerstone of the overall release. It has everything an Ashes Of Ares fan might want – the layered vocals, the thick guitars, time changes, just the right amount of speed and an all-encompassing emphasis on drive and power. Vidales puts on a guitar and bass clinic in the song – not in a showy Yngwie Malmsteen "more is more" way, but one where you can really hear the soul in the music. Vidales has this amazing feel with his instruments that's augmented by all the tones he chooses for a handful of sounds that hit the ear just right.

What makes "Monster's Lament" even more memorable are the guest vocals by none other than Tim "Ripper" Owens, current vocalist for K.K.'s Priest and (another) former vocalist for Iced Earth. You get two former Iced Earth vocalists in one non-Iced Earth song! Joy! It also helps that guitarist extraordinaire Bill Hudson (NorthTale, Circle II Circle) provides one hell if a guest solo as well.

"By My Blade" is the first single off the LP and it gives a really accurate representation of Emperors And Fools. It has that classic Iced Earth-type sound to it, which of course is a difficult comparison to draw these days given Jon Schaffer's recent activities… but it is true. It's heavy with just the right amount of speed and Barlow offers up both a standard vocal track in his regular register, as well as concurrent vocal that's higher pitched that meld together so, so well.

Similar to "By My Blade" are rockers like "I Am The Night" and "The Iron Throne" that are going to have you pumping your fist in the air. There's nothing too experimental and here and nothing that goes to out of bounds, and that is not at all a bad thing. Even the slower and ballad-y "Gone" is going to sound familiar to longtime Barlow fans. And call me crazy, but I hear a little early '80s Paul Stanley in the lead vocals for "Gone." As I listened to the song more and more, I actually found this cut as one of my favorites on the entire record, profoundly more enjoyable than watching Kiss with the Fake Ace prancing around in Frehley's original makeup.

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If there's one thing missing from the record, it's more pronounced percussion. Van Williams (Ghost Ship Octavius, ex-Nevermore), the band's original drummer is credited with the skins on this record, but isn't listened on the liner notes as a full-fledged band member anymore. The drums were recorded separate from the rest of the record and perhaps a stronger mix might have helped here. They need to be a bit more prominent to really work better in the compositions – especially the cymbal work – to really bring things to life.

Some may say that Ashes Of Ares doesn't stray out of their comfort zone on this record but then again you might ask why they would want to. They have a clear formula that works and they stick to it. It is, without a doubt, satisfying.

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