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Ashes Of Ares – Emperors And Fools Award winner

Ashes Of Ares
Emperors And Fools
by Justin "Witty City" Wittenmeier at 29 November 2021, 6:10 AM

ASHES OF ARES is a metal band based in New York who formed in 2012. "Emperors And Fools," is their third full length album. They also released an EP in 2020. Matt Barlow and Freddie Vidales, both formerly of Iced Earth, are the main guys in the band. Van Williams continues to provide drums even though he quit the band years ago so I'm not real sure what the point of him quitting was. Not that I'm complaining—Van's work in ASHES OF ARES is as impressive as his work in NEVERMORE and GHOST SHIP  OCTAVIOUS.

Freddie handles both guitars and bass—the man is a best and gives in incredibly strong performance on this album. The twelve track one hour run time might be a little bloated on the surface but it is so chock full big riffs and catchy melodies that the time will fly by. Of course, and no offense to Freddie and Van, but the main draw of the album is Barlow. The man gives perhaps his strongest performance since ICED EARTH's 1996 opus "Dark Saga."

Seriously, he sings his ass off on this album.  Not only is his ever impressive range and emotion in top form but he sounds energized and full of blood, sweat and tears.  I respect and appreciate his decision to be an officer but I'm equally as glad that he is continuing to sing—a person with a voice like his NEEDS to be heard. I do have one complaint about the album and, ironically, it is about Barlow himself Obviously it is well established he is a legend and I've praised him plenty in this review and still consider him one of the best vocalists. Ever. With that being said, there is way too much vocal layering on this album. As much as we all love him, we don't need 10,000 Barlows singing on each song. It makes the songs sound cluttered and, at times, all the vocals cover up the music.

With that being said, every song on this album is goddamn solid as hell.  After the intro track, with is just a basic intro style piece and nothing special, the album begins with "I Am The Night" and never slows down. For the style, "Emperors and Fools" is intense as hell–a nonstop powerhouse built upon a rock solid foundation. "I Am The Night" begins with speedy riffs, pounding bass, and hard hitting drums. The song, and the album as a whole, sounds robust with a sound that is immense. Barlow wails out the chorus in his epic fashion as the band jumps back into the meat of the song, not one member missing a beat.

"Our Last Sunrise" is backed by thunderous, vibrating bass. The lead guitar throws in harmony and leads at just the right moment — the flow of the song is next level. The drums compliment the vocals so well that the song is worth hearing just for Barlow and Van alone. The title track mixes things up a bit with a clean opening and a soulful guitar solo. The music continues along this path with Barlow crooning over it. This is probably the closest song on the album to a ballad but it still gets rifftastic after the halfway mark. Incredible song. At over the album's halfway point, the band just hammers the metal in further with "By My Blade" which is a barn burner of a track. The bass is unstoppable, monstrous and hits like a ton of bricks. Barlow rips his throat apart too. And how about the melodic guitar section with the ferocious double bass? Blistering!

"Gone," begins with clean instrumentation and also feels a little like a ballad but it too brings the fury. The guitar/bass tone is dense as hell and adds a different dimension of heaviness compared to some of the other songs. Around two minutes in, the song's tempo picks up but also gets pretty melodic in places. I found this to be one the most well rounded songs on the album. And then the end track called "Monster's Lament," which proves to be one of the band's best song. It is nearly twelve minutes long and crushes. Tim "Ripper" Owens (also a former ICED EARTH vocalist) helps Barlow out on vocals. The two compliment each other's styles pretty well and I hope we see more collaborations between the two. Maybe with Stu Block as well? That would be sweeeeeet.

The riffs on the epic are among the most brutal on the album, as are the drums. For nearly four minutes the song tears up the world until a melodic movement steps in, sounding like a very natural transition and smooth experience. Afterwards, the ultra heavy pedal is turned back on with a slower but unrelenting pace where Ripper really shines. ASHES OF ARES' "Emperors And Fools" is one beastly, muscular heavy metal album that shows that Barlow and company  still have much to say. Highly recommend.

Songwriting: 9
Musicianship: 9
Memorability: 9
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

1. A City in Decay (Intro)
2. I Am the Night
3. Our Last Sunrise
4. Primed
5. Where God Fears to Go
6. Emperors and Fools
7. By My Blade
8. What Tomorrow Will Bring
9. The Iron Throne
10. Gone
11. Throne of Iniquity
12. Monster’s Lament
Freddie Vidales - Guitars, Bass
Matt Barlow – Vocals
Van Williams – Drums
Record Label: Rock of Angels Records


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