Review Summary: This is what you would expect from Mr. Howerdell. A very solid album but still a few holes to fill before they become a real contender.
A lot of people are curious to hear Billy Howerdell's new side project, ASHES dIVIDE. As the brainchild the band A Perfect Circle, he was the mastermind behind their incredible debut, Mer De Noms and the very solid follow-up album, Thirteenth Step. I'm probably not the only one who was a bit skeptical about the band before listening to them. The absence of Maynard James Keenan's vocals is a big hole to fill for Mr. Howerdell 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 decent at best least since Howerdell was the founder and core member of A Perfect Circle.
Howerdell handles all of the vocal, guitar, bass and keyboard duties as well as being the album's primary songwriter. He also recruited vetran, Josh Freese to play drums on the album. Howerdell's voice is surpisingly great. It's very soothing, but strong and can be aggressive at times which blends perfectly in with the band's style. The band's style can be described as atmostpheric rock at best, every track manages to build a dark atmosphere for the listener. A good amount 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," "The Stone")
It also seems that Mr. Howerdell 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 APC, this is something new and different from Mr. Howerdell'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 like it's proceder but it's a lot more aggressive, especially it's chorus. Then comes the slower, ambient songs like "Forever Can Be" and "Defamed." Some of these songs are great but a few are a bit redundant. The main two being the pair of "A Wish" and "Ritual." Both songs are very atmospheric, dark and the latter sounds nearly 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 guitarwork 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." It has a great buildup with piano and strings until Howerdell'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. 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.
Key Tracks: Denial Waits, The Stone, Sword, Forever Can Be