Chris Akin of "The Classic Metal Show" recently conducted an interview with former ICED EARTH and current ASHES OF ARES vocalist Matt Barlow. You can listen to the entire chat below. A few excerpts follow (transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).
On whether there was a difference in how ASHES OF ARES approached the creation of its second album, "Well Of Souls", versus the band's 2013 self-titled debut:
Matt: "I think that, independently, we did have different visions. I'm not saying that we all had shared [a vision]; Freddie [Vidales, guitar, also ex-ICED EARTH] and I didn't necessarily share a vision. I know that Freddie went out of his way and said, 'We wanna make this next one heavier.' And it's the definition of 'heavy.' 'Cause some people's definition is heavy is [aggressive and] in your face all the time, and that's not really our definition. Our definition is darker, more sinister a little bit. So he was even going for… There's bits in there where you can see his doom influence and his little DANZIG-y kind of pieces and things like that. He was really going for a darker, deeper feel. And then also some really crunchy, thrashy stuff. And I'm always cool for dark, man; I'm always good to go on the dark side. But then also, sometimes it's kind of cool and playful to do some lighter things, like, 'Hey, man, yeah, this is super dark. Let's add some really cool harmonies in here.' So with that, I think it lends itself to sounding maybe a little different, and that's cool; I'm totally down with that — that's what we want. So if I throw some crazy harmonies, kind of lighter harmonies over really dark, dingy stuff that Freddie's writing, I just think it makes it a cool sound, and then that makes the sound different. That's what we shoot for."
On the importance of trying new things in a career that spans over several decades:
Matt: "I wanna expand. I wanna kind of spread my wings a little bit. WE ARE SENTINELS [Barlow's project with composer, keyboardist and pianist Jonah Weingarten], that was the prime example, like, 'Hey, fuck it. Let's do something completely different.' I don't wanna do that for ASHES. I mean, I know ASHES is a metal band, and I have certain expectations for myself to give to Freddie. Freddie is a metal guy, man, and he deserves it — he deserves every bit of metal that I can give him. If I can squeeze in some harmonies here and there that he's okay with, or do some crazy little high, jazzy bits up there that he kind of cringes at, but goes, 'Okay, it's cool,' then that's great — that's what I shoot for. I do wanna make it different, but I wanna stay within the realm of metal, obviously, with ASHES and make it as heavy and kind of gritty as we can as well. But also, yeah, man, have fun with it. I mean, why not? That's what we're here for. And doing the carbon-copy stuff, man — what's the point? What's in the point in that? Nobody wants to hear that.
"Sometimes it's hard to escape the comparisons [to ICED EARTH], because my voice is still my voice no matter what, and I'm still gonna deliver things emotionally like I have before, so people are always gonna draw comparisons with ICED EARTH, and that's fine; I'm completely cool with that. I'm proud of my time in ICED EARTH, proud of everything that I've done with them, proud of them right now, going on and kicking ass. So I don't have any problem with that whatsoever — the comparisons. But, that being said, I want ASHES to have its own identity as well. I think, again, as my writing partner, Freddie deserves that — he deserves to have his own identity in ASHES — and I think that's really important; that's what we're striving to do. And also, hey, man, there's already an ICED EARTH out there; they're touring and they're kicking ass, as I stated before. Why would I wanna do ICED EARTH stuff?"
On the status of drummer Van Williams (ex-NEVERMORE), who played on both of ASHES OF ARES's studio albums even though he left the band in 2017:
Matt: "It just kind of worked out, man [that he also played on 'Well Of Souls']. Van departed; there were issues early on. One of the things that took a little bit of time with the band getting the record out… His wife was diagnosed with cancer, so she was battling that for a long time. It weighed heavily on Van, and he also had another project with GHOST SHIP OCTAVIUS, which is more really his full-time gig, because he can actually tour with them. They're more open to touring than Freddie and I are, because we have other types of careers. So, anyway, with that being said, he stepped down from the band. So it was Freddie and I going, 'Okay, so, let's go ahead and get all of this stuff together.' We had been working on some songs with Van, [so it was, like], 'Let's get those together, let's get these other songs that we're working on together.' Freddie ended up programming drums, [and did] a phenomenal job, I thought, of programming. He programmed the drums so we could get our demo completely done. So we had the entire record pretty much demoed up. And then we started shopping it. So when we did, we had a couple of bids, and one of them was ROAR! [Rock Of Angels Records]; they offered us the best deal. And they were, like, 'So, are we ready to go to press with this?' And we were, like, 'No, we're not.' I mean, it sounded great, man — I've gotta say, it sounded great, 'cause Freddie did a phenomenal job, so the demos were phenomenal. But we knew that we wanted to tweak things, and we knew that we wanted a real drummer drumming it. It just so happened, we got up with Van and said, 'Hey, man, we know that you're on hiatus right now. We got a deal with this record. Would you wanna do the drums? Obviously you'll be paid.' And he said, 'Yeah.' So he recorded all the drums at his studio, and all of Freddie's stuff was recorded at his and then all the vocals were recorded at mine. Wham, bam, there you go, and that's it. So that's kind of how it worked out. It just so happened it worked out really well for both. Van, again, got paid for doing the songs, so that's cool — money in his pocket. It worked out great for us, because we were sort of in a time crunch. It would have been, I think, harder maybe finding another drummer that would do it and could do the songs. Since Van already knew a lot of the songs, or at least had an idea about the songs, it didn't take him nearly as long to do the drum parts. So it just worked out, man."
"Well Of Souls" was released November 9 via ROAR! Rock Of Angels Records. The disc was recorded during June and July 2018 and was mixed and mastered in August 2018 at The Terrarium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. All music and lyrics were written by ASHES OF ARES except "You Know My Name", which was written by Chris Cornell and David Arnold.