Ashes Of Ares - Well Of Souls

Genre: Heavy Metal, Power Metal

Am I an old school Iced Earth fan boy? Maybe. Have I been waiting anxiously for the follow up to Ashes of Ares’ self titled debut since it was released in 2013? Maybe. Am I going to love this album? Not so maybe. That first album is kickass, and it’s taken five long years but Matt Barlow and Freddie Vidales (both ex- Iced Earth) finally dunnit, releasing follow up Well of Souls in November. A big part of what Ashes of Ares is, is a kind of Iced Earth extension, so you will always find that side of the sound in there, but Well of Souls takes a wide step from what was introduced on the self titled debut, while still sticking largely to the same formula. Vidales is showing his colors not only as a guitarist - there are some pretty sick guitar parts and sweet ass solos on here - but as a songwriter. His influences go some ways beyond the Iced Earth (and let’s face it, Maiden) -esque sound, to dabble in the more extreme and most importantly the arcane progressive. It helps that Van Williams (Ghost Ship Octavius, ex- Nevermore) has added a big touch to the sound, with his progressive background and current leanings - he has left Ashes of Ares since the first album, but still mans the drums here as a guest, appropriately enough.

Ashes Of Ares - Well Of Souls

Pyramaze keyboardist Jonah Weingarten also makes a guest appearance, opening the album up with the intro to Consuming the Mana. He does so in a fashion that distinctly recalls some of his most captive moments from Pyramaze, the deep, invoking keyboards setting the scene. Vidales’ then takes over, and Barlow gives off a banshee like scream to show - he’s still got it. The rest of the song fully sets the tone for the rest of the album; thrashy, powerful and packed to the brim with fleshy riffage and big vocals. Somehow, the first half of the album is slightly less captivating than the second. Mind you, tracks like Unworthy and The Alien still set some massive groundwork especially in the rhythm section and Vidales’ lead guitars (the solo in The Alien is frickin massive), while opting for the bombastic and heavy approach, Williams adding a touch of his signature progressive touches. It takes a slight dip with ballad Soul Searcher and the following Sun Dragon, both of which remain fairly anonymous.

The second half then, takes all the good parts of the first and blows it up with a blast of intensity and creativity. Barlow’s vocals take a turn for the emotional and melodramatic in Let All Despair (if you haven’t gotten a fill of your big sounding Iced Earth semi-ballads lately, there it is), and melodies soar mightily in In The Darkness and Time Traveler, the latter taking a slightly speedy route to set the stage for The God of War, closing the album with loads of fleshy power. That is, except the bonus song You Know My Name, a cover of the Chris Cornell song. It’s a nice little tribute, but pretty anonymous and not up to the standards of the rest of the album. Coming just a few months after Barlow’s debut full length alongside aforementioned Pyramaze keyboardist Weingarten - called We Are Sentinels - this album should sate every need for classic Iced Earth antics, while also standing well on its own and growing what was begun five years ago. Opener Consuming the Mana will sate your need for heavy riffing from Vidales and thrashy Barlow works, while Let All Despair gives you all the melodrama Barlow is known for. The wait was well worth it, as Well of Souls easily grows over its predecessor and in gloriously heavy fashion delivers rifftastic anthems one after the other. The god of war awaits.

 

Standout tracks: Consuming The Mana, Let All Despair, In The Darkness, Time Traveler

 

    

 

Musikvideo: Ashes Of Ares - The Alien

Lost In Thought - Renascence

Genre: Progressive Metal

Hoping their renaissance will bring a new life the so long dormant Lost In Thought, the British prog outfit return with their second full length, Renascence. The first album, titled Opus Arise, was released in 2011 and since then it’s been utterly silent around the band. What strikes immediately upon the first listen of Renascence is that there’s an initial intensity that sticks from the first moment and to the last. Very atmospheric and driven by strikingly emotive vocals by Deane Lazenby, the album manages to pull at the heart strings in a very effective way. In this it might be likened a bit to the latest Kingcrow album, but with a bigger, more epic sound lending melodics from the likes of Poem. Renascence doesn’t have a commercial flair, it’s not going to ask you to like it, not going to beg for attention. But holy shit, if you sit your ass down and give it the time, the attention, the peace of mind, that it deserves, it will return all you give.

Lost In Thought - Renascence

Easily one of the best albums of the year so far (and there’s not much left) and a reason why November 2018 rocks, it’s a work of honesty. It’s done exactly as Lost In Thought wants it, and it delivers loads of passion. More so than the predecessor, Lost In Thought deliver melodic pieces unheard, the buildup magnificent in every song (though perhaps mostly on the three that go above seven minutes in length), starting humbly only to come into a burst of energy and going through a softer, melancholy part that yet grows into the feels trip the song comprises. The musicianship is flawless; no point herein warrants a word of complaint. From the heart wrenching vocals of Lazenby to Chris Billingham’s tight drum works (the drum lines in Absolution is particularly sweet, in my humble opinion). There’s a poppy approachability sometimes to Diego Zapatero’s (Mercury Rex) keyboards, but it’s done consciously and with plenty of underlying pressure in thrifty riffing from David Grey, so much so that said approachability won’t make a single moment feel unwarranted or unsubstantiated.

Oddly enough, the album doesn’t end on Legacy, which would feel like the natural conclusion. Instead it ends on Absolution. Don’t get me wrong, but the ending of Legacy would have felt the natural closer - and it should say a lot that my complaints about this album are about which song to end it on. Renascence is a very even listen, perhaps too even in a way. Not that what it presents is ever bad or even below really good, but that some larger degrees of variations to heighten contrast and make the emotional highs strike that much harder, would have been beneficial. To return a bit to the aforementioned approachability, Renascence sounds flashy, but even when you go beyond that, there’s still a lot to gain from each listen, each time you feel the songs again, how Grey’s guitars work alongside Zapatero’s highly prevalent keys make it sound so much more than it might have; how the guitar solos are worked to perfection and made as complete parts of the whole, and… so much more. A work of art, but one you have to feel to understand, and to think I nearly missed it.

 

Standout tracks: A New Life, Save Me, Absolution

 

    

 

Lost In Thought - A New Life

Warkings - Reborn

Genre: Power Metal

You know what metal needed more than anything right about now? Another gimmicky project aimed entirely at the fragile masculinity of teenage boys. The hotshots at Napalm Records have of course realized as much, and in an effort to fill this void put together Warkings, made up of musicians from already known bands, but hiding behind cool skull masks because everyone loves a mystery - and we can’t reasonably expect the warcraft dwellers to find Georg Neuhauser (Serenity) to be the spitting image of manliness; a badass tribal warrior with a skull for a face on the other hand… To put all doubts to rest as to whether or not this is the next big thing in hyper manliness, the album cover has plenty of sexy female butts (conquest) and a giant warrior with a colossal battle axe phallus (conqueror). Hey, it worked for Manowar, and they’re totally what manliness is all about!

Warkings - Reborn

As already stated, Warkings is all about gimmick, and little about substance, with most of it trying to cash in on the imagery and fitting into a category of bombastic power metal. You have the competent musicians to back it up, (Neuhauser, known in this project as “Tribune” is a pretty good vocalist, after all), and a couple of flashy tracks with some gritty riffing from “Crusader”, as well as the soaring catchiness in the choruses. I’m talking about the two singles, Hephaistos and Gladiator, the former sporting a fleshy chorus and the latter some effective, eerie references to the movie. These are two sole above decent-ish tracks on the album, the rest topping at mediocre at best. The songs are about 3-4 minutes in length, all same-y and with little variation in structure or build. (This could work, if the material was stronger.) In this it could be considered something like Sabaton (also super manly, they have a tank!) but Warkings at least don’t pretend to be history teachers. Of course the album ends with a ballad. In German. Because that’s what this album sorely needed.

Don’t get me wrong, I can look aside from Manowar’s imagery, because they’re world class musicians and they’ve written timeless metal pieces. This is not the case with Warkings; they might be good musicians, but the project is, from the beginning, a venture into money making (okay, maybe Manowar do that too) and little in way of above average power metal, to appeal to as many in the target audience as possible. If you want to hear flashy songs about war and warriors and other such cool things, give it a go, but if you want musical depth and/or lyrics with substance, maybe go with one of the musicians main bands. Early Serenity comes to mind. Sure, “Crusader” has some Mystic Prophecy (not a bad thing) like riffing on here, and more than a couple of good solos, but it isn’t carried by the whole. In conclusion, Reborn really isn’t that good, but I’m afraid to say it because Warkings might come after me with their giant axe penises.

 

Standout tracks: Hephaistos, Gladiator

 

    

 

Musikvideo: Warkings - Gladiator