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Ashes Of Ares's Freddie Vidales: "There was a song where I asked Matt to do a bit more, and I said “bring out that "Horror Show" shit”. He laughingly said: “that was 20 years ago.”"

Interview with Freddie Vidales from Ashes Of Ares
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 25 December 2021, 9:56 PM

Those who say that life could be fair, are probably more in an error than in the right. Life is mostly not fair, as none could have all of what they want. Nevertheless, and sadly stated, there is a deviation between those on top, and those at the bottom. Of course, nobody wishes to be an underdog, or to be left out of being a decision party, yet at times, it is inescapable. Even though the Ashes Of Ares duo, Matt Barlow and Freddie Vidales, never really intended to come up with a direct statement, their new “Emperors and Fools" album in overall tells the bitter truth. Steinmetal had a good talk with guitarist Freddie Vidales about the new record, and the experience 

Hello Freddie, it is an honor having this conversation with you for Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been doing sir?

Great, we’re really excited for everyone to hear what we have been hearing for over a year now.

Reflecting on the past two years, where mankind has been living side by side with a pandemic that doesn’t really seem to wish to be left alone, how have you been coping through this ordeal? I guess you can say that you have more time for creative writing so to speak?

I am one of the lucky ones I suppose. Nothing has really changed for me, other than I have not been going to many live shows. My work was never interrupted, and where I live, things have pretty much been the same.

Earlier, prior to your newfound venture, the Ashes Of Ares moniker strolled down memory lane with two vintage Rock covers for Chicago and Kansas. Later those two covers were released in a single release along with “Throne of Iniquity”. Since I didn’t get the chance to ask, how did these two classic songs make an impact on the musical aspects of Ashes Of Ares?

Matt and I were talking about which songs to cover, and he suggested 25 or 6 to 4, and I immediately agreed because I love that song too. We like to take songs that aren’t traditionally metal sounding and twist them our own way. Dust in the Wind was suggested by our label ROAR, and we are very happy with how it came out.

Heading towards your next epos, your third album, “Emperors and Fools", I could sense that you had a lot on your plate to let out through the record. A measure of distress, perhaps fear of what will come next due to things happening all around us, which aren’t necessarily for our good fortune, is part of what the record is. What is your take on that? How do you find the new record as a gathering of ideas?

Well, I can see why you would think that, but musically I just played what I thought sounded cool. I’m not a very deep person, so I don’t really dwell on things like that. That’s why the more meaningful lyrics come from Matt. I’m more of a caveman haha.

Judging by the rather straightforward artwork, made by Kamil Pietruczynik, it may be possible that the Emperors are actually the world leaders with us, the public, worldwide actually, the ones that hold the social order, are the Fools. Do you agree with that logical assessment? In your view, which are which?

I won’t give anything away because we like people to draw their own conclusions, but our idea was to have a chess board where one side is all kings, and one side is all pawns, showing that the pawns have no chance of winning.

Even though “Emperors and Fools" was mostly written prior to the pandemic; it is hard to ignore that it is around and influences our very being. When following carefully, would you say that you are able to find connecting dots between the happenings of the present and the record?

There will always be dots connected to anything going on, but we really just tried to write a good album, everything else is secondary. We know there will be a lot of bands writing about the state of the world, so we didn’t need to add to that.

As there is a moral for everything that is being put out there, every musical piece, even instrumental, in your opinion, what form of message does “Emperors and Fools" convey? Would you also state the record offers solutions, or maybe ways out, of problematic situations that it might have mentioned?

Not to me, it’s not a concept album, though some of the songs can be intertwined in ways. But like anything else, it’s up to interpretation of the listener.

One of the characteristics of “Emperors and Fools", and I am sure that some folks would argue about its importance, is the aggression factor. Throughout the Ashes Of Ares career, you measured up to the aggressive manner of Iced Earth, nonetheless, this record is level up in charging head on. How do you find this side of Ashes Of Ares on this album?

It’s definitely more in my comfort zone to write heavy/thrashy stuff. Matt and I both wanted to step up the aggression on this album, so we did just that.

Another thing that I found amazing is that, and I do believe that it is the first time, that the musical side of Ashes Of Ares nearly detached all the remainders of your Iced Earth history. Whether the riffing style, and also the sound, which is quite different, the chains are off. How do you find this notion?

We’ve always known that people would have a hard time separating Ashes and IE, and that’s very understandable. Our goal has never been to separate ourselves or prove anything. It was always to just write music we liked, and then hope others would like it also. I would hope by now that we have established our own identity, but to give credit where it’s due, Ashes would not exist without Iced Earth.

Continuing the previous question further on, how do you view the musical development of the band on the points of songwriting, overall perception of how to approach raw material and making it a song etc.?

It’s a true partnership between Matt and myself. One of us will have an idea, bounce it off the other, then back and forth until we are both shaping a song. There are several times when one will come up with something that the other doesn’t really like, so it goes no further than that.

We talked about a level up earlier, Matt’s vocals production, along with his performance, is surreal, displaying dimensions of his voice that sound highly rich, setting the tone for the songs. In your opinion, on “Emperors and Fools", what form of impact does Matt’s vocals, on their various layers, contribute to your desired effect for the album?

It definitely enhances the songs and gives them more dimensions, making them sound bigger and more epic. The more Matt the better! There was a song where I asked Matt to do a bit more, and I said “bring out that Horror Show shit”. He laughingly said “that was 20 years ago.” But he did it, and I was blown away.

The constant involvement of Van Williams to the rhythm section of Ashes Of Ares has been amazing throughout the years. I know that he was once a full-time band member, and now a session musician. If you decide to take Ashes Of Ares live, would he return to a full time capacity or is he merely to help you out make records?

Van has other commitments, which made it impossible for him to be a full-time member. If he has the chance to play live with us again, that would be great. Maybe he would just play a song or two at a show, but Van is family.

If I am not mistaken, it was your first time working with Byron Filson as your engineer, which took on “Emperors and Fools". How do you find Filson’s work for the benefit of Ashes Of Ares? What was he able to accomplish for you that previous producers, engineers couldn’t?

I’ve known Byron for over 20 years as we were (he still is) in local bands here in Arizona. I had never worked with him professionally before, so we decided to do the Throne of Iniquity EP at his studio to see how it would be. It went very well, so we took the full-length album to him. His ears are amazing, and he can pick up things that I have to struggle to hear. The fact that his studio is 10 minutes from my house was also a big bonus. Our past engineers were wonderful as well, but I had a great time working with someone I’ve known so long.

Piercing like a slow firing machine gun, there is “I Am The Night”, delivering the band’s astounding heaviness, over dynamic riffing, and masterful vocal performance. Through the intensity of the tune, how do you find its impact on the entire record?

We felt it was the perfect opener. Not too fast, not slow, but just in the sweet spot to get people pumped for what’s to come.

 “By My Blade” takes a step forward in the band’s aggression, with a generated onslaught and powerful energies all around. No doubt that Matt went beyond limits on this one, his diverse vocal layers reminded me of his respected past. How do you find this tune?

It’s always exciting when I send Matt music, then he works on it, and I get to hear what he creates for the first time. This song definitely was a surprise. I smiled because I knew it would be a killer.

 “Monster’s Lament” is one hell of a project, a story on its own, an epic, which strives for that patch of darkness that the band has been sharing throughout its records. With the many faces of the band, displayed within this single track, what can you tell of the challenges of actually making this endeavor happen?

It all started with one section, the acoustic sounding part was the first thing written. I thought it sounded cool, so I worked on writing something in front of it, then after it, and it kept growing and growing. As it got bigger, I started having the idea that maybe it’s so big, that it needs to be a story where the musical changes would go along with the storyline changes. It’s a song, but it’s more of a short story, so if people listen with that in mind and take the music and mood into account, I think it will have more of an impact. And that’s when the hard work came in. How do you make something this long, but not have it feel like it’s long? That was a big challenge, but I think we figured it out.

This track is also a summit between amazing vocalists, a dangerous meeting if you will, as Matt’s vocals come in duet with another ex-Iced Earth vocalist, Tim “Ripper” Owens. This is quite an event, as the two vocalists present different voice patterns and qualities. What are your thoughts about this highly rated event within the record?

At some point I thought that maybe there could be 2 characters in it as the music kept changing back and forth, so I talked to Matt about having someone else in the song, and Tim immediately came to mind. It’s fun too because Matt gets to play a “bad guy” character, so the complete opposite of his real self. I think their different vocal styles fit the songs perfectly because it helps emphasize the darkness of the storyline.

When you listen to the entire record, which I am positive that you did more than once, what comes through your mind?

We’re really proud of it, and we can’t wait for the world to hear it.

Freddie, many thanks for your time for this interview, it was great to have you onboard for this. Also, thank you for unleashing such a strong record, may it take you a step forward. All the best.

Thank you Lior!



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