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Ashes Remain: Through the Fire
Posted August 29, 2011
By MaryNikkel_NRT, Staff Reviewer


Ashes Remain, the rockers recently signed to Fair Trade Services, have released their second full-length record, What I've Become. As the title would suggest, the album wrestles with concepts of self-hate, regret, fear, and hope in the midst of depression, framed in grinding guitar hooks and raw vocals reminiscent of Skillet, RED, Seventh Day Slumber, or secular outfits Breaking Benjamin and Three Days Grace.

The opening track, "Keep Me Breathing," is catchy and instantly memorable, with a heartfelt chorus crying, “my mind's a loaded gun; no one can hear me screaming.” The song sets the tone of hope amidst darkness, admitting, “You're the One that keeps me breathing.”

Many of the tracks seem tailored to fit perfectly into the rock radio format, such as the very strong track “On My Own,” which calls out for God to break through the walls of pride in order to bring healing. The tracks are exceptionally well polished, showcasing musical skills the band has already hardened on the road. Another track that could easily hold its own in the rock radio arena is “End of Me,” featuring a heavy beat and a strong guitar hook.

Although the album features some good, heavy, hard rock tracks (notably “Take It Away” and “Inside of Me” later on the album), Ashes Remain also displays a softer side. “Everything Good” leans heavily on acoustic guitar and could almost be considered a worship track. “Without You” is one of the strongest tracks on the album, incorporating strings and piano to back up the poignant lyrics about waiting for God in the midst of heartache. “Change My Life” also shakes up the mix a bit, adding in more of a pop-influenced sound.

The album definitely delves into deeper topics, singing with an honesty that will prove instantly accessible to rock fans. However, it also provides refreshing breaths of comfort and assurance. One such song is the track “Right Here,” with words that could have been written from the viewpoint of God: “I'll show you how to live again.” This is one of the strongest moments on the album, making use of an instantly memorable melody and some strong acoustic guitar work amidst the usual gritty guitar riffs.

Closing Thoughts:
Although there's not a whole lot of new ground broken lyrically and instrumentally in this album, it's a formula that works. Ashes Remain certainly adds its own unique flavor to the formula, and What I've Become is a solid addition to any collection. One of the elements that sets them apart is their use of intricate, guitar-focused bridges in almost every track. Another element that gives them strength is their ability to meld acoustic and grittier elements flawlessly in the same song. Overall, it is a raw album that sheds some light amidst dark themes. The message is captured well by a line in the song “Unbroken”: “I'd walk through the fire just to feel You next to me.” The album walks through hard places while still fixed on hope through the grace of Christ.

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