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Ashen Reach - Homecoming

Ashen Reach
Homecoming
by Mark Machlay at 27 October 2020, 6:48 AM

What do you if you’re in a band that loses both a lead singer and a guitarist after playing some of the biggest shows of your life as a band? You brush yourself off, laugh at destiny and continue on in true rock ‘n’ roll fashion! About a year and a half ago in what feels like an eternity in 2020, in April 2019, Liverpudlian hard rock band ASHEN REACH played two of the biggest show of their life at the A2 Green Arena in St. Petersburg and the Adrenaline Stadium in Moscow, Russia supporting BULLET FOR MY VALENTINE. They returned home with only Paddy Cummins on lead guitar and backing vocals, Mike McCarrol on bass and backing vocals and Jess Stanley on drums. Unsure of whether to go on or throw in the towel, over the next couple of months the band posted ads on their social media for both an experienced guitars and a robust lead singer that would gel well with the band. Guitarist Joe O’Sullivan approached them and impressed them right away. A month later, they would be put in touch with singer Kyle Martyn Stanley and within weeks they had two songs written, entered the studio and 3 days later had their debut and follow-up single ready to go. “Tear it Down” and “Prey” were received extremely well and it made the confident to continue and develop their long anticipated full-length debut, releasing on November 16th of 2020.

It’s hard to pinpoint the sound that ASHEN REACH have created on their first full-length debut “Homecoming” but they certainly fit into the niche carved out by bands like ALTER BRIDGE, SHINEDOWN and similar acts but bring a lot of 80s melodic AOR sensibilities that gives them a gargantuan arena rock sound. The album starts off with “Fighting For My Life”, a mid-tempo grooving track that serves as a perfectly acceptable radio friendly up-tempo hit with a harmonized chorus chant – “Fighting, fighting, fighting” – that can surely get a lot of play on mainstream rock stations. But they kick it up a notch with the next track and third single “Epiphany” with this earworm of a main hook that reminds me of TRIVIUM. You can start to hear their unique appeal in the soft interlude followed by an impressive guitar solo with great emotional lyrics delivered by new singer Stanley. Third track and second single “Tear it Down” gives another side of the band and some generous borrowing from the infamous pinch harmonics and rhythm guitar technique of Zakk Wylde. Another stand out is their first single “Prey” further down on the tracklist. With a huge 80s – nearly power metal in intensity – chorus beautiful vocals that show a lot of character and nice atmospheric – without overpowering – lead guitar work, it’s got hooks for days that never get old.

There are some things that plagued my listening ears though. The promo copies of the tracks I received seemed to suffer from both oversaturation and clipping resulting in nearly painful listening in the louder, more layered section. However, when I checked the few singles available digitally from Spotify, they were much better mixed, so either it’s an encoding/quality issue of the files I received or it was fixed after the promos were sent out. Regardless, most of the tracks were great even with production issues but there are some clunkers as well. The title track “Homecoming” seems to have been given the mercy spot at the end of the disc possibly for how repetitive it seems but Stanley’s vocals and mix of quiet and loud sections are enough to have me humming the riffs after the track finished. The same goes for “Here I Go Again” getting a little long in the tooth before the solo kicks in which was predictably melodically and yet its bleeding with so much emotion and finesse it gets a pass. Long story short, for a debut record, it’s a strong first effort and I look forward to more from as long as they don’t become a victim of the loudness war.

Songwriting: 8
Musicianship: 9
Memorability: 8
Production: 7

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Fighting For My Life
2. Epiphany
3. Tear It Down
4. Heir To The Throne
5. Alive Again
6. Prey
7. Ether
8. Here I Go
9. Hole In The Sky
10. Broken Column
11. Homecoming
Lineup:
Kyle Martyn Stanley – Vocal
Paddy Cummins – Lead Guitar & Backing Vocals
Joe O’Sullivan – Rhythm Guitar
Mike McCarroll – Bass & Backing Vocals
Jess Stanley – Drums
Record Label: Independent
     


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