ASHES OF ARES – “Emperors and Fools”

By Colonel Angus

I really enjoyed ICED EARTH and their brand of prog-power metal. There were great riffs and even the more straight forward tracks had an epic feel to them. Well, two alumni from that band, Matt Barlow and Frediie Vidales have created this beast called ASHES OF ARES. In the span of almost a decade, they have released three full length disks of that same brand of prog-power metal that we have come to love from these two. I’ll start off by saying that if you liked the first self-titled record and “Well of Souls”, then you will definitely love this record. It seems that they have found the formula that works for them and they are sticking to it which isn’t a bad thing because the albums are great.

There are quite a few highlights on “Emperors and Fools” starting with the first proper song “I Am the Night”. Right off the bat, you’ll be banging your head and fit pumping the air. The soundtrack-ish intro “A City in Decay” really set the tone for this disk full of epic tunes. If you are looking for full-on power metal, then “Our Last Sunrise”, “Where God Fears to Go”, and “By My Blade” will satisfy that hunger but what makes this album stand out are some of the other prog tinged epics. Just grab a listen to album closer “Monster’s Lament” for a prime example of mixing power metal with prog and throwing a boatload of drama into the mix. It is a shining moments on this record but you don’t have to skip to the end because there are quality tunes throughout. “Gone” and the title track are personal favorites and while they may be a couple of the slower songs on the record, it really shows off Barlow’s vocal abilities. There are other slower passages on “Emperors and Fools” that slow things down for a moment to give the listener a breather before they go back to their signature power metal intensity. Don’t let the mellow beginnings of “Primed” or “What Tomorrow Will Bring” fool you, these are heavy tunes that show off those prog power metal leanings.

After listening to their first two records again after “Emperors and Fools”, I have come to the conclusion that third times a charm with this disk. The production and performances are markedly improved and while I still like their earlier releases, I think this album will be the one I’ll gravitate towards when I’m in the mood for power metal. Barlow has always been a great vocalist and he continues his tradition of putting in a stellar performance. As far as the guitars go, I have to extend some extra praise for Vidales who improves with each release. He shines throughout “Emperors and Fools” with his crushing riffs and melodic soloing and I can’t wait to see what he has in store for us on the next record. As I mentioned earlier, if you were a fan of their earlier works, then you will love this disk as you will hear some improvements over their previous efforts. Now, if you haven’t given this band a chance before, “Emperors and Fools” is the record to treat yourself to some quality prog power metal. You won’t be disappointed.