Aunt Stella’s Ashes - Shades of Gray
Aunt Stella’s Ashes has been together since 2010 and grew out of a number of previous project, Power Kor, featuring the new band’s core members of vocalist Tim Schichtel, guitarist Kevin Smerdon, and drummer Patrick Schiavo. They’ve lodged a number of important opening slot appearances in recent years for acts as diverse as Blue Oyster Cult, Jackyl, Quiet Riot, and Adler’s Appetite, but their new single “Shades of Grey” amply illustrates how they are more than ready to take their band to a whole other level and deserve consideration themselves as potential headliners. They have a thoroughly modern sound, but it’s tempered, as well, with a retro command of hard rock poses that the band applies a new coat of paint to in their efforts to make the song stand out more from typical efforts in this vein. Their efforts towards that end are quite successful.
Much of that is due to the aforementioned sound and production mix of the performance. Smerdon and second guitarist Dano Spangler’s guitar playing are capable of exhibiting considerable flash, but they rein it in throughout and allow it to flourish to full effect at particularly well chosen moments. There’s definitely a modern touch, as well, to how the song incorporates Schichtel’s singing and he achieves a spotless, lockstep motion with the guitar playing that makes this an all the more effective number. There’s definitely some rugged attitude that comes across from the first, but there’s tremendously virtuosity working throughout the number that never oversteps its boundaries to become the only reason we’re listening. Much of this, naturally, comes from the band’s willingness to make this much more than some slambanging hard rock romp. The lyrical content and changes built into the song are of a much different persuasion than your standard fare without ever overextending their ambitions. Aunt Stella’s Ashes clearly had an idea of what they wanted this song to sound like when they entered the studio and there’s little doubt that they succeed in achieving their aims for the song.
Tim Schichtel’s singing peaks at just the right moments and never shouts or belts the lyric out with too much firepower. As a result, his voice is the cherry on the top of this delectable musical number thanks to his talent for allowing emotion to break through with color and passion. The song length of a little over four minutes is ideal for the performance, both onstage and radio play, and each component of the song reaches the right resolution without ever feeling over wrought. Aunt Stella’s Ashes “Shades of Gray” is a great modern rock song that will be featured prominently in their set lists for years to come and sounds like an inspired rock band working near or at the peak of their powers. They play so well it seems like they can maintain this energy for years to come.