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Ashen Reign: An Angels Burden

Ashen Reign is a one man band from the United States. Brent McDaniel is the mastermind behind all this, and he shows great talent on a various range of instruments, from the keyboard to the guitar and even the drums too. That in itself is a major achievement, but the music that goes along with all this is also another great achievement from Brent McDaniel.

An Angels Burden is the second release by Ashen Reign, coming after his 2008 debut, "Immortality". Though the style of this album is clearly power metal there are also slight hints of other types of metal, such as progressive metal and traditional metal, added in to create a better all around feel to the album. The compositions of the songs on the album lend themselves very well to the style of music that Brent McDaniel plays and provide for great riffs and kind of catchy choruses. One thing that is a little out of place on this album is his voice. Granted, it's not a bad voice, he is actually a very good singer, but it doesn't seem to fit well with power metal. Most of the time power metal vocalists use powerful choruses and driving vocals, in general, but McDaniel's voice seems a bit soft and doesn't always provide that same power. On the more progressive tracks this is a huge plus, but it is a hindrance on the heavier songs. Power metal for me needs strong vocalists such as Russell Allen or Jon Oliva. Other than that, though, this album is pretty flawless.

All the songs on this album are very good, especially the ones that draw on the more traditional metal style such as "Broken Heart" and "Fear of the Snake". Brent McDaniel is very adept at all of the instruments he plays, especially the guitars. His wonderful riffs on the instrumental track "The Sparrow" are great as are most of his guitar solos as well. Though many people associate power metal with fast, shredding guitar solos, this album doesn't have tons of them, and a lot of the time the solos tend to be more melodic than shredding.

The production isn't that bad, especially considering that Brent McDaniel did that too. He really is a one man band, and he really did do everything on this album from start to finish, and it shows through on the final product. I had great joy listening to this album, with all its catchy riffs and great solos, and look forward to Ashen Reign's next release. For now An Angels Burden gets 3.5 stars.


Track Listing
1. The Feast (4:17)
2. An Angels Burden (6:11)
3. Hope (5:17)
4. Broken Heart (5:22)
5. Simple Things (4:11)
6. Prayer For The Dying (7:04)
7. Fear Of The Snake (5:40)
8. The Sparrow (4:15)

Added: July 19th 2011
Reviewer: Brian Block
Score:
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 2212
Language: english

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Ashen Reign: An Angels Burden
Posted by Jeff B, SoT Staff Writer on 2011-07-19 19:33:42
My Score:

Brent McDaniel is one hell of a busy guy. Ashen Reign, his US power metal project, truly defines a "one man band", and Brent handles absolutely everything on An Angels Burden. In addition to composing the entire album, writing all of the lyrics, designing the artwork, and producing the album, Brent also performs every single instrument here - without relying on shortcuts like drum programming or hiring guest vocalists. That alone is an impressive feat, but the music itself is also remarkably strong and makes An Angels Burden one of 2011's finest power metal albums. This second album from Ashen Reign is a sure winner in my book, and a very recommendable album to anyone who enjoys thoughtful, yet still rock-solid modern power metal.

The music here is modern power metal with equal influence from the heavy-edged American power metal scene and the more whimsical, keyboard-driven European power metal scene. Keyboards, courtesy of Brent McDaniel, are present throughout much of An Angels Burden, but are never are too dominant (a good thing in my book). This is first and foremost a guitar-driven album, and that's clearly where McDaniel's main talent lies. The man is simply a fantastic guitarist, and delivers plenty of fantastic riffs and mind-blowing solos throughout the album's 41-minute duration. Just listen to those solos in the title track or "The Sparrow" and you'll see (or hear, I guess) exactly what I mean. An Angels Burden isn't all about talent showcases, though, and it's clear that Brent is also a very talented composer. Songs like the epic-edged "A Prayer for the Dying" (which also features a kick-ass solo) or the melodic "Broken Heart" both prove that he knows how to craft some excellent power metal music, and that is essential to any album in this genre.

Although the musicianship is excellent across the board, the only small complaint I have is the vocal delivery from Brent McDaniel. He's certainly a skillful vocalist with a knack for creating some catchy melodies, but his voice does sound a bit reserved and lacks "punch" in my opinion. It's nice to see that he doesn't waste his time using cheesy falsettos during the whole record, but a bit more of a powerful delivery would've significantly improved the album for me. A few more vocal harmonies may also have helped in this department. Despite my reservations, it's not a major complaint and the vocals are far from being a large issue. The production is, like everything else, courtesy of Brent McDaniel, and actually quite professional. A few spots do come across a bit "amateurish", but the vast majority of An Angels Burden sounds fresh, professional, and powerful.

So despite a few minor complaints, An Angels Burden is an extremely successful effort from Ashen Reign that I'd readily recommend to anyone who enjoys power metal in the American variant. Brent McDaniel is a guy with a ton of talent to spare, and the tremendous effort that went into this album makes that statement very clear. If you're looking for a power metal album that isn't cheesy, but instead powerful, emotional, and technically stunning, An Angels Burden should prove to be one of the year's best. 4 stars are well-deserved for this terrific album. Excellent job, Brent; keep up the great work!



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