Ashes Divide - Keep Telling Myself It's Alright
Record Label: Island Records
Release Date: April 8, 2008
A lot of people are curious to hear Billy Howerdel's new side project, Ashes Divide. When he formed the band A Perfect Circle, he was the mastermind behind their incredible debut, Mer De Noms and its very solid follow-up, Thirteenth Step. I'm probably not the only one who was a bit skeptical about Ashes Divide before listening to them. The absence of Maynard James Keenan's vocals is a big hole to fill for Mr. Howerdel as his powerful vocals and lyrics were a big part of A Perfect Circle. However, I had a feeling that Ashes Divide's debut album, Keep Telling Myself It's Alright would be at least decent since Howerdel was the founder and core member of A Perfect Circle.
Howerdel handles all of the vocals, guitar, bass, and keyboard duties as well as being the album's primary songwriter. He also recruited veteran drummer, Josh Freese to play on this album. Howerdel's voice is surprisingly great. It's very soothing, but strong and can be aggressive at times which blends in perfectly with the band's vibe. Their style can be described as atmospheric rock as every track manages to build a dark mood for the listener and most of the songs are either driven by piano or a slow vibe. Most of the piano-driven songs are some of the strongest on the album ("Too Late" and "The Stone," for example).
It also seems that Mr. Howerdel is trying to create something completely different from A Perfect Circle. It's his chance to step out of Maynard James Keenan's shadow and create something new of his own. While a couple songs ("Denial Waits," "Stripped Away") sound a bit similar to A Perfect Circle, this is something new and different from Howerdel's former band.
The album's opener, "Stripped Away," gives you a bit of what to expect with Ashes Divide. It features a dark but powerful melody and has a very nice piano lead in the verses. "Denial Waits" is a lot more aggressive, especially its chorus. Then come the slower, ambient songs like "Forever Can Be" and "Defamed," which are great, but a few are a bit redundant, especially the duo of "A Wish" and "Ritual." The latter sounds very much like an interlude into "The Stone," which is one of my favorites from the album. "The Stone" is what I was expecting from Ashes Divide. It has a slow but powerful melody, a great chorus, and some nice guitar work as well. It is followed by "Higher," which is one of the faster songs on this album. It's a bit more upbeat and a nice change of pace. The album closes on a very solemn and dark note with "Sword." The song has a great buildup with piano and strings until Howerdel's vocals kick in, when it turns into a solemn but excellent closing track.
I can definitely say that I am a bit impressed with this album. I would have liked a few more heavier songs, but the darker, ambient songs work just as well for me. The album also reminded me of Wes Borland's solo project, Black Light Burns. It's not exactly the same type of music, but it's the same idea: a multi-instrumentalist who has worked with many bands branching out and finally doing his own thing. It works in some cases and doesn't in others, but it definitely works for Ashes Divide.