I first heard Ashes on a walkman about a block from my high school as we were skating during lunch or an assembly or something. They were inspirational in my early music days, pushing me farther from pop-punk to the emo side of things. They also might have been influential in my drum sound and caused me to torment people with basically a marching band piccolo snare.
Ashes employ many of the hardcore tricks: palm muting, stop/start rhythms, etc. However, they're the perfect example of what "real" emo bands were: the blending of those hardcore tricks with melodramatic, poetic lyrics. The addition of a wistful, contralto female singer over the top made the melodrama unmistakeable. And, of course, this EP is on white vinyl. Now, the idea of girl vocals over hard rock is fully acceptable. But in the 90's this was new territory. Basically, Paramore and Evanescence can thank the hell out of bands like Ashes for paving the way.
The star of this EP is definitely "Nameless Soldier". The jarring rhythmic intro into a loping beat with intricate bass lines under sparse verses build into a fantastically harmonic chorus introduced by a perfect triplet. It's a swelling and ebbing song, teasing you along with more layers. The singers voice seems to tremble with emotion in the quiet parts and the gallons and gallons of reverb let it linger on the palate. Then an almost spoken word, trance-like bridge builds and builds into a frantic, layered outro. If they hadn't have stuck the fade out, sleepy serenade at the end of this EP, it would have been a 5, for sure.
B1: Nameless Soldier