Hot off the Press

Back From Ashes | 261

by Mark Allen
Staff Writer —

Back From Ashes are dangerous. They want to penetrate your ears without mercy, hammer your brain until it turns to mush, whiplash your neck until it snaps like a twig, and rattle your spine until it shatters like spun glass. And their weapon of choice to inflict these sonic wounds is pure metal fury.

261, the second effort from this Arizona-based band, wastes little time in kicking off the heavy metal chaos. After 40 seconds of soft, anticipatory foreplay, the opening track “When You Fail” explodes in an orgasmic rush of strong vocals, pounding rhythms, excellent guitars, and superb production values that are the band’s trademarks.

About those vocals—Back From Ashes are unabashedly a modern metal band and as such use plenty of screams. What separates them from many of their peers is that the metalcore vocals remain decipherable, rarely devolving into guttural gibberish. It is refreshing to hear modern metal that you can understand without studying a lyric sheet.

Dissect the sound of Back From Ashes like a corner carving up a corpse and deep in the band’s guts you will find Sevendust, Killswitch Engage, Lamb of God, Drowning Pool, Metallica, Slipknot, and even Alien Ant Farm. But accusing them of cloning would be a false damnation, because the band molds their myriad influences into metal of their own making, borrowing from those that came before to create something new. Well, maybe “new” isn’t the right word; Back From Ashes are a good modern metal band, but calling them cutting edge would be giving them more praise than they deserve. So, not new, but rather a soundscape that resembles what is already popular in the modern metal market but juiced up with the fresh, hungry edge that only a young, unsigned band can bring.

The band injects energy and emotion into every song and this intensity, coupled with the excellent musicianship and metal chops, gives Back From Ashes a mainstream appeal that transcends commercial hooks and corporate-approved choruses. That said, the band does seem to be catering to the mainstream metal masses and if that is their target, the choruses could use some sharpening. Of course, everything else about the band is of such high quality that it is easy to overlook the standard issue refrains. Sometimes you just don’t care about catchiness when you’re busy headbanging like hell.

Back From Ashes excel at dodging the dreaded “metal blur” where one song bleeds into the other with little to distinguish it from the one that came before. Each track is stamped with its own identity, cohesive within the whole but able to stand alone as an individual entity as well. One moment you’re getting drilled by a machine-gun-like-riff (“Tightrope”), the next you’re enjoying some diabolical double-kick fun (“Truth”), and then you’re bowled over by a ferocious, take-no-prisoners juggernaut (“20 20 Blind”). Then, just to prove they can haunt your soul as well as smash your face, they throw in a couple of brooding metal ballads that show off their softer, more melodic attributes.

With nary a misstep save for some slightly lackluster choruses, Back From Ashes deliver slamming, high-octane modern heavy metal. And they do so while refusing to paint by the numbers, yet remaining wise enough to not stray too far outside the established lines. Make no mistake, there are far less worthy bands signed to major labels right now, so these Arizona boys definitely deserve a shot. While they may not be the penultimate metal band on the scene today, they know how to deliver the metal goods, and their sound certainly won’t feel like cold ashes in your ears.

Genre: Metal

Jason Hobel (vocals)
Mikey Butikofer (guitar)
Anthony DeJesus (guitar)
David DiGilio (bass)
Dan Johnson (drums)

Track Listing
1. When You Fall
2. Walk Away
3. Tightrope
4. Truth
5. The Suffering Within
6. Pull the Trigger
7. The Verge of Consequence
8. 20/20 Blind
9. Misery
10. Welcome To Me
11. Seed


Label: Independent

Hardrock Haven rating: 7.5/10