Review

ASHEN REIGN An Angels Burden

Album · 2011 · Power Metal
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4/5 ·
J-Man
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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