I received a package from Edward “Ash” Ashdown with a note explaining this is CD is an experiment of sorts. Ash has not recorded music since recording was tape based so he is learning digital production as he is recording. The packaging on this CD is fantastic. The lyric sheet is a separate fold-out and it also includes a Core Fire sticker. With anticipation, I popped the CD into my workstation and hit play.
The songs on Descent are all thrashy and would not be out of place in 1984 San Francisco. Ash has been influenced by the great Dave Mustaine and it shows. His vocal delivery is similar to Mustaine’s snarl and his rhythm playing smacks of Countdown era Megadeth. While Descent is in the vein of Megadeth, it does not have the dual guitar interplay that is a M’deth trademark.
As I listened to Core Fire (which is a great band name, BTW) I had to fire up some Megadeth to make sure my comparisons were on track. That exposed the flaws of the Descent album. Please, don’t get me wrong, Descent is an ambitious piece of work, and coming from one guy, it is an obvious labor of love. Ash writes, plays and sings everything. He also acts as recording engineer and producer. It is in the production where the album falters.
Recording drums played live is notoriously difficult. Just ask Bob Rock and crew that engineered St. Anger. The drum playing here is fine, but the recording is thin and small sounding. Metal, and especially Thrash, need huge sounding drums. These just are not there. The bass is also way back in the mix. The best way to describe this production is to take the drums from St. Anger and plug them into And Justice for All with Dave Mustaine on vocals. If the drums were replaced with triggered sounds and the bass was beefed up, the production would be improved 100%.
I don’t want to come across as harsh concerning this album. There are some big highlights. The lyrics are fantastic. There is no ambiguity in what Ash believes as he is bold in proclaiming the gospel in true “metal” fashion. Example – from the title track:
The blood of martyrs is being spilt
The world stained in hopeless guilt
They mock his name
The play this game
Halls of power being built
We can see the Dragon rise
The harlot is here taking lives
Drain the blood
Of those we love
Their faith in God will never die
The songwriting is rather good as well. The songs are punchy with not one exceeding 5 minutes. The lyrics can be understood and the vocals are bright and out front in the mix.
Ash has taken on an a monster task and for a first recording, this is rather good. I look forward to hearing more, and maybe even a remix of these songs with a beefier sounding rhythm section.
Descent is available on all streaming services but I recommend buying the CD for the packaging. It is top notch.