MGF Reviews Ashes Divide – Keep Telling Myself It's Alright

Ashes Divide – Keep Telling Myself It’s Alright
Island Records (4/8/08)
Rock / Alternative

Billy Howerdel is probably best known for his collaborative work with Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan in A Perfect Circle, though he does have a fairly lengthy résumé to his name. And with A Perfect Circle now being on hiatus, Howerdel is trying his hand at fronting his own band. The result is a mixed bag of ethereal rock music that pulls influence from a variety of sources.

Ashes Divide sounds more like 30 Seconds to Mars (with a hint of Nine Inch Nails) than A Perfect Circle, but that may be a much due to the absence of Keenan (more on that later) than anything else (though Howerdel’s vocals could draw comparison to Jared Leto’s).

Ashes Divide has just as much in common, sonically, with the aforementioned bands as it does notable ’80s bands of the same vein (The Cure, Duran Duran, et al.), and Howerdel has managed to merge all of this influence to create something that harkens back to a time/genre without sounding dated. (The melancholic “A Wish” could just have easily been released by The Cure in 1988, yet it doesn’t sound out of place on the album.) Likewise, something like “The Prey” could just have easily been released by Trent Reznor before he went all “garage” on everyone.

There’s a definite ebb and flow to the album—it starts off loud, slides into a more retro groove for a few tracks, gets slower and more reflective in the middle and then picks up the pace again to end with a bang.

It seems Keenan may have been able to focus some of Howerdel’s efforts in A Perfect Circle. The song structure seemed more direct in A Perfect Circle, which was a nice juxtaposition for the more meandering, imaginative vocals/lyrics. Here, some of the songs either plod along without direction, or seem to tail off and/or end abruptly, which is not only a disappointment but also calls into question what could have been given a little more effort. (“Stripped Away” and “Denial Waits” seemed to fall into this trap, which is a real shame since they’re the two opening tracks.)

Taken as a whole, Ashes Divide is a nice effort. There’s a definite mood to the album, and everything flows very well together. A few times Howerdel seems to let his influences get the better of him, unleashing tracks that sound more like an homage than original effort, but this is a nice start for one of the music scene’s harder workers.


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