Ashes to Ashes - Cardinal VII - 2002


Ashes to Ashes proclaim their music as Gregorian Metal. Their first release was independent and only a limited number of pressings soon sold out. Their second release, "Carninal VII" was picked up for distribution by DVS records. It, according to the notes, is a more hard hitting version of the band.


The first few tracks are exactly that. Very riff oriented, edgy metal with attitude. "Among Mortals", track three, introduced the use of gloomy keys and more sombre, atmospheric moments but it's clear that the boys really wanted to cater to metal fans on this album. Their trademark multi-tracked vocals aren't really that pronounced except for a few tracks, most notably the brilliant "Sic Tansit Gloria Mundi".

Although keys are not mentioned in the credits, they are used quite frequently, especially to create a gloomy spinal column to the music. To this extent, they work quite well. Piano is implemented effectively in places as well to give the music a more symphonic tone. The short closing instrumental track, "Iben II" is a hauntingly beautiful piece with piano and strings. Other excellent tracks near the end, "Behind Closed Eyes" and the eight and a half "Cardinal VII" allow the band to explore a softer melodic tone, thereby rendering the second half of the CD more subdued than the first half. It is tracks like these that show the band in their best form and with a reasonable complexity.

Vocalist Kenneth Brastad has a deep, resonant voice and a pleasant, melodious sound that is also punchy. A lot of carefully thought out backing vocal adds the "Gregorian" element to the music, though not in the way that maybe was used before by the French pop band, Enigma. Certainly the performances are quite competent by all musicians; Michael Stenberg on guitars and backing vocals, Bjorn Luna (bass and backing vocals), and Ronny Kaasa (drums).


Outside of the thirteen minute "Sic Transit…", most of the music is not particularly progressive. Most songs are quick and mid tempo rockers. The hard-edged riffs will definitely appeal to those who like their music muscular and heavy. However, the second half of the CD has a lot of symphonic elements and many variations within its songs. It is here where Ashes to Ashes transcends its counterparts in the doom metal genre.

author - date - rating - label

Richard Zywotkiewicz - June 2002 -   - DVS Records