By Jason Wellwood
When Matt Barlow left Iced Earth the last time, I thought he had retired from music for good. Needless to say, I was very excited to hear that he had returned with a band of his own, featuring former Iced Earth bassist Freddie Vidales and ex-Nevermore drummer Van Williams. Given the past of the three members I was pretty sure of what I was going to hear on this album, and thankfully, I was right. Ashes of Ares has kept to its roots and created an album of bright, upbeat power thrash. While the band does play some excellent slower songs like ‘Wings of The Warrior’ and the centre piece of the album, a power ballad entitled “The Answer,” there is no brooding and no moping here. This is an aggressive yet melodic album destined to keep fists in the air when played live.
Speaking of which, “Move the Chains” features an incredible foot-on-the-monitor-fist-in-the-air vocal performance from Barlow, underneath which is a heavy, pounding drum performance that I can only imagine is Williams trying to destroy his kit. Vidales does an amazing job as well with his double duty on guitar and bass, but the real star of the album is Matt Barlow. The songs seem created specifically to showcase his voice and on Ashes of Ares he sounds fresh and hungry.
Ashes of Ares is a solid record that many people slept on last year. I think some folks will regret that. Highly recommended.