The duo of Matt Barlow and Freddy Vidales has presented us interesting albums – and now it is returning with its new, third album, “Emperors and Fools”. Without a doubt, this is Ashes of Ares’ best album to date, as the inspired songwriting process resulted to great compositions. Ashes of Ares is the best alternative for everyone, who wants to listen to something new in the style of Iced Earth. And not just because of Matt Barlow’s vocals, but also because the riffs, the refrains and the whole song structures are reminiscent of the band of Jon Schaffer. It would be unfair for Ashes of Ares though, to say that they are just Iced Earth sound-alikes. Barlow and Vidales have progressed a lot and offer us heavy metal music, which is very melodic, very epic and melodramatic, and openly influenced by the classic sounds of the big bands (Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, Metallica, etc.). Barlow gives an outstanding performance, here you will find some of this finest moments as a vocalist, since he sings his lungs out, being so passionate and confident! In addition to this, Vidales is amazing in both the lead and the rhythm guitars, giving his heart and soul to every note – listen to his ferocious riffs, his artistic solos and you will be overwhelmed! There is no filler here, all the melodies are outstanding, all the songs, whether they are fast-paced or they have a mid-tempo, will impress you! Of course, the top track of the dozen is the final song, “Monster’s Lament”, a true epic, a grand heavy metal anthem with the excellent guest vocals of Tim “Ripper” Owens – yes, we have Barlow and Owens in the same song! “Emperors and Fools”, this monumental album of American heavy metal, deserves your attention. It will be a favorite companion for a long, long time!

♦ 8/10

Dimitris Zacharopoulos