"Cardinal VII" (DVS Records)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

A few years ago, I was highly impressed by Ashes To Ashes' self-produced debut "Shapes Of Spirits." However, I could hardly ever get over the fact that, at the time, they were an unsigned band. Ashes To Ashes were too good to be an unsigned band and I often wondered why a label couldn't come to their senses and sign Ashes To Ashes. Finally, DVS Records in the Netherlands snapped up Ashes To Ashes and the band's latest CD "Cardinal VII" is their first disc to appear for proper distribution and promotion throughout the world.

My initial listen to the first track, "New World Obscure," gave me thoughts of the sound found on Covenant's "Nexus Polaris." Additionally, the aggressive "Ravenous Unleashed" generated the same response. All this means is that Ashes To Ashes on a number of songs have increased the tempos, made their semi-doom parts a little more eerie and dark all without losing their signature sound. 

However, there are plenty of tracks that continue the Ashes To Ashes sound set forth on the previous CD "Shapes Of Spirits." "Embraced In Black" is an enticing number that balances a gothic, doomy feel with a newfound confidence that gives the band a slightly harder edge. "Among Mortals" is depressive doom tinged with the somber nature of classical music that leads into the classic metallic crunch of "Truth On Scaffold" that will have you bobbing your head in astonishment. The epic "Sic Transit Gloria Mundi" in one hell of a tune that encapsulates everything that Ashes To Ashes are capable of doing and hints at even greater things to come.

"Cardinal VII" has fulfilled my expectations and is highly recommended. Much like their self-produced debut CD "Shapes Of Spirits," "Cardinal VII" is something that I can listen to again and again and still hear something new without ever getting bored.

Ashes To Ashes is Kenneth Brastad on vocals, Michael Stenberg on guitars, Bjorn Luna on bass, Ronny Kassa on drums.

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"Shapes of Spirits" (self-produced)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

Ashes To Ashes is a Norwegian outfit that plays a mid-paced, dark style of power metal with doom and gothic overtones. It would take an elaborate sense of composition and stylistic discretion to pull this combination of styles off and Ashes To Ashes have it in spades.

The driving metal riffs are like the ignition of super-charged turbo engines while the keyboards and female vocals provide the haunting sheen of glass during the disc's slower, somber moments. Although it would be difficult to say that Ashes To Ashes sound truly 'unique', they certainly don't sound like anybody to the point where comparisons are easy.

The thunderous and epic "Gabriel" is great European power metal while another epic "Sacrilege" takes a stab at adding some Middle East flavors to the band's molten lava style. These epic songs hint at a progressive sound, but not overtly so; the arrangements are different enough to break free of the mainstream metal approach. The somber ballad "The Mourning" shows the band's quieter side while the brief instrumental power-metal bonanza of "Divide & Conquer" recalls the orchestrated glory days of '70s hard rock with a sense of classical influences updated for the late '90s. 

The vocals are sung with confidence and fluidity. This is a CD that I could listen to over and over again because the vocals fit so well with the music. The lyrics are fantasy-based with an emphasis on that things are never quite what they seem at first glance. 

Ashes To Ashes are a band to look out for. 

"Shapes Of Spirits" was produced by Michael Stenberg and co-produced by Bjorn Luna. 

Ashes To Ashes is Kenneth Brastad on vocals, Michael Stenberg on guitars, Bjorn Luna on bass, and Kristian Johansen on drums.  Contributors include Thomas Sorlie on keyboards and female vocals by Randi Hoftvedt. Ashes To Ashes' metal comrades in Dimmu Borgir assisted in the project; spoken word contributions were performed by Astennu and artwork assistance by Shagrath round out this promising project. 

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Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.

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Copyright 2002 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 02 Oct 2023 21:56:12 -0400.