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Shankle, David (Group) - 2003 Ashes To Ashes

David Lee Shankle - guitars
Trace Edward Zaber - vocals
Eddie Berthishou - keyboards
Brian Gordon - bass
Eddie Foltz - drums, percussion

David Shankle as many of you will remember, was a member of the 'so called' definitive heavy metal band on Earth.. that band being Manowar. Now, with sword in hand and tongue in cheek, you can take that comment any which way, just don't swing it in my direction thanks! If memory serves me correctly, he took over the axe-slinger duties from Ross 'The Boss' Funicello (refer also The Dictators and Shakin' Street). Shankle left the 'heavy ones' in 1995, and went back to school, studying jazz and classical guitar at Roosevelt Music University in Chicago. However, the heavy leanings did not desert him, so it was that the David Shankle Group took shape some years later, with the first person invited onboard being long time friend, singer Trace Zaber. With a band assembled, the material for DSG's debut album 'Ashes To Ashes' took shape during early 2003, the end result.. a fantastic US power metal album which has nothing in common with Shankle's previous lot.. thank god for that!! One listen to 'Ashes..' and you can hear full unadulterated power combined with ample melody and strong influences from the eighties. I am reminded a lot of that wickedly good Fifth Angel debut album.. the stirring solos a la James Byrd, and the operatic vocals of Zaber who does remind you a lot of Ted Pilot. Even the L.A band Malice get a mention here, perhaps the vocal performance touching moments previously heard with their singer James Neal. Then there's the outrageous keyboard work of Eddie Berthishou.. Think Derek Sherinian, Jens Johnason or Vitalij Kuprij, then you know what calibre of keyboard playing we're talking about here. Throughout, you can hear Berthishou and Shankle compete at 'solo' time.

The Songs
DSG open their account with the title track 'Ashes To Ashes', an introduction of immense proportions.. think of words such brooding, grinding, melodic.. it's all here. 'A Raven At Midnight' is a throwback to 80's style metal, probably more so than the other tracks on the album, while my favourite track without a doubt is 'Calling All Heroes', taking a commercial direction (if commercial is a term that could be applied to this lot!). 'The Tolling Of The Bell' features restrained power mostly.. though when they do rock out, the dual keyboard and guitar solos are amazing. Any direct comparison to Fifth Angel can be made with 'Madness'. I wonder what would happen if James Byrd was listening to this? 'Back To Heaven' is also a faster paced tune, which chugs away relentlessly, a Brazen Abbot type approach taken here, with loads of organ in the background. The epic 'The Magic Of The Chords' starts out beautifully; majestic even, and when the band move into heavier realms, the majestic nature of the arrangement is retained. The last track 'Voice Of Authority' is an instrumental, though fast and furious, probably also misplaced.

In Summary
An excellent set for those not averse to heavier 80's sounding stuff. The plus factors include: band members who are all experts on their chosen instruments, an 80's theme with a 21st century production job, and a sound guaranteed to please both the current power metal brigade, plus all those headbangers from years gone by with receeding hairlines.


Track Listing:
01 Ashes To Ashes
02 A Raven At Midnight
03 The Widows Grief
04 The Widows Peak
05 Calling All Heroes
06 Curse Of The Pharaoh
07 The Tolling Of The Bell
08 Secrets
09 Madness
10 Back To Heaven
11 Masquerade
12 The Magic Of The Chords
13 Voice Of Authority

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