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3.93 | 5 ratings | 5 reviews
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Album · 2011

Filed under Power Metal


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)

Total Time 42:17


- Brent McDaniel / vocals, guitars, bass guitar, keyboards, drums

About this release

Self-released (Ashen Reign Productions) in CD and digital formats.

Available in digital format for purchase at:

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Thanks to adg211288 for the addition and Time Signature for the updates


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Specialists/collaborators reviews

Conor Fynes
'An Angel's Burden' - Ashen Reign (6/10)

Although most 'true' music fans will say that the music industry has fallen apart, and the end is nigh for any real art, we live in an age now where, with enough dedication, an artist can put together music without any support from a record label. Such is the case of Brent McDaniel, and his Ashen Reign project. Although it was mastered by engineer Jens Bogren (best known for his work with Opeth), Ashen Reign is virtually the sole work of Brent; his vision, his passion. Playing a very melodic style of metal with a tinge of Gothic atmosphere, 'An Angel's Burden' makes for a fairly interesting album with a surprisingly original sound.

Like most who will hear 'An Angel's Burden', I have never heard anything that Brent has done in the past, but considering that this is an indie effort, the execution of this music is surprisingly professional. First and foremost, McDaniel is a guitarist. This is where his greatest talent lies, and the songwriting reflects this.A tlhgouh many of the most memorable melodies are allocated to his distinctive vocal style, the guitars are where Brent leaves the greatest impression. Brent's approach to composition tends to favour tight song structures, but there are moments where Brent's flair for axework is able to shine. The title track of 'An Angel's Burden' opens with a beautiful minute-long intro in which soulful soloing and melodic licks are fused into a passage that effectively showcases his work with the guitar. Of course, there are plenty of guitar solos along the course of the album to make 'An Angel's Burden' a haven for those seeking great guitar work.

Although guitars are obviously Brent's forte, the rest of the sound is fairly professional, although there is never any question as to where the man's greatest skills lie. Brent's vocals are perhaps the most memorable aspect of Ashen Reign's sound. Although the guitar work is the most skilled element at play here, Brent McDaniel's vocals are quite peculiar for the metal style. While a 'melodic' brand of metal would usually entail a singer who appreciates typical vocal acrobatics, Brent sticks to a fairly narrow vocal range, somewhere in between singing bass, and an average mid-register. Brent's voice is nothing spectacular, and while his limited range can make the delivery sound monotonous, his strength lies in the melodies themselves. The only song that particularly stood out to me as a whole was 'The Feast', but Ashen Reign can always be counted upon to conjure powerful melodies.

Ashen Reign's music is certainly not my style, but Brent McDaniel gets my approval and acknowledgement as a talented and passionate artist. It's more than possible that the sound would have felt more balanced had a full band was there to realize Brent's vision, but as it is, 'An Angel's Burden' is a fairly impressive effort.
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!
The Block
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.
An Angels Burden is the second release from US one man band Ashen Reign, following on from the 2008 release Immortality. The album features eight tracks of highly melodic power/traditional heavy metal and was released in 2011. The musician behind the project is one Brent McDaniel, who plays all the guitars, bass, keyboards, drums as well as providing the vocals.

The music is stylistically somewhere between traditional heavy metal and power metal, but more leaning towards the latter in my opinion due to its high use of melody and keyboards. The instruments are well played, especially the guitars, and the compositions have a catchy nature about them that should appeal to fans of power metal. McDaniel’s vocals are not the most powerful that I have ever heard and are if anything are atypical for the power metal style, but are very clear and work well with the sense of melody in his compositions, which makes his music sound more on the atmospheric metal side of things.

I mean that in a really big way really. Although I catch the odd riff that sounds like it could come across as a lot more intense with a different take on the production (McDaniel handles all the production himself as well), the album feels laidback and lacks intensity, which many metal fans may miss in the music. With that in mind I do enjoy An Angels Burden based upon its own merits; the style certainly works well for this guy. Although they are unexpected the vocals are actually really what makes this album for me. They fit really well with the riffs and the keyboards, which unlike some power metal don’t completely dominate the sound, rather being pretty much used to carry the melody while the guitars provide the metal edge. This is the sort of album that has a real hypnotic feel to it, and it’s great for just sitting back and listening to when you want something to relax to, although tracks like Hope have a more upbeat feel to them than some of the others, while still being very recognisable as McDaniel’s take on the power metal genre.

I like this album because it’s different. When someone says power metal to me I usually expect either the rougher guitar driven style of USPM acts of the keyboard laden EuroPM style, while this really falls somewhere else, not necessarily between the two but I do detect shades of both here, since the music is more guitar driven even with the presence of those keyboards. With a score of addictive tracks on the album this is certainly to be getting many spins from those who find this style to their liking. I highly recommend An Angels Burden to anyone looking for an atypical take on the power metal genre.

(Originally written for Heavy Metal Haven, scoring 8.2/10)
Time Signature

Genre: power metal

Ashen Reign is a one-man power metal act whose sole member Brent McDaniel handles all instrumentation, songwriting and production. That in itself is a feat, to be sure, and this release also shows that not only is he a talented musician, he is also a gifted songwriter and metal composer.

While there can be no doubt that this is a power metal release, Ashen Reign also draw on more rock and traditional metal-oriented riffage, such as one of the transitions riffs of the title track, one of the main riffs of "Broken Heart", the chorus riff of "Fear of the Snake", and one of the chorus riffs of "Simple Things". As is conventional in power metal, there is an epic feel to the music, which is derived from both the use of keyboards and the intrinsically melodic riffage, and the choruses also tend to have the same catchy melodic feel as much power metal does. In addition there is also a slight sort of almost renaissance feel to the album with its use of acoustic guitars now and then as well as mildly neoclassical melodies.

The vocals are very different from what one might be used to in power metal. There seem to be two tendencies within power metal: the rough and powerful style associated with the likes of Russell Allen and Apollo Papathanasio, and the equally powerful but more operatic style associated with the likes of Michael Kiske and Tony Kakko. Brent McDaniel's singing style sounds very different from both of these, as his voice has a much softer quality and often sounds almost like a sort of chanting and is probably more likely to be encountered in alternative rock (sometimes his voice also reminds me of Dan Fondelius), which certainly is a refreshing change from the archetypical power metal vocalists. However, there are certain places where a more powerful singing would improve the listening experience of this album, and that is in the choruses. McDaniel has a knack for writing simple, melodic and catchy choruses, but I think they would come across in a more compelling and epic fashion had the vocals been more powerful.

One of the things that I especially appreciate on this release is the guitar work. This release is teeming with catchy guitar melodies - this is especially prominent in the instrumental track "The Sparrow", which also seems to inherit the main theme from "Fear of the Snake". And the guitar solos are quite varied, some being blazingly semi-shreddy while others are more rock-ish and melodic.

The production is not bad, and, although, it does have a certain DIY quality, it is still quite crisp and well defined. I also like how the keyboards are audible but not too prominent (one of the problems I have with much modern power metal is that the keyboards are given too central a role in relation to the guitars).

In all, this is a quite good release and contains some well-written and catchy power metal tunes, and, while appearing to take a lot of inspiration from European power metal, Ashen Reign fortunately take the American approach to power metal which is much less marked by cheesiness and much more true to its rock and metal roots. This is a different power metal release to be sure, and I think that it will appeal to many fans of the genre.

EDIT: The more I listen to the album, the more I start appreciating the vocals - therefore, I've added half a star to my original rating.

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