"Ashes of Ares"

By Dr. Abner Mality

After being spit out of the meat grinder known as Jon Schaeffer's Iced Earth, Matt Barlow lands on his feet with Ashes of Ares. This dude has such a unique vocal style, it would be a shame for his voice to never be heard in meral circles again. For Ashes of Ares, he teams up with two Nevermore alumni, guitarist Freddie Vidales and drummer Van Williams.

Ashes of Ares should satisfy fans of Barlow and Iced Earth. I'm not as sure about Nevermore fans, because this band is much closer to Iced Earth than Nevermore in sound. The album is a fairly pleasant listen, but it could really do with a kick in the ass. The emphasis is on mid-tempo and semi-balladic tunes like "This Is My Hell" , "On Warrior's Wings" and "The Answer", which don't to stick in the head as much as the more aggressive and up front tunes like "Chalice of Man" and "What I Am". From these semi-ballads, I'd pick "The Answer" as the best. Barlow's vocal work is outstanding in both lower and higher registers on that one. In fact, Ashes of Ares functions quite a bit as a showcase for Barlow's singing and he sounds as good here as he ever did on any Iced Earth album.

The album is restrained and somber. If anything, it reminds me a lot of "The Dark Saga" album from Iced Earth and that was hardly that band's crowning achievement. But Vidales and Williams are pros and give top notch performances. I just think they could put that talent in service of some more energetic material. Maybe next time will do the trick for Ashes of Ares.