Ashes Where They Stood

Ohio’s TON have been around for close to 3 decades and part of the reason they have had their sound continue in a cohesive manner is the stable line-up.  Jeff Shepler on vocals/bass, Kevin Kraft on vocals/drums and Dan Gates on vocals/guitar have stayed the course to fight the good death metal fight.  When I first joined Internal Bleeding in 1994 I instantly connected with the band because they are such great guys and I still consider them friends and we played shows together and had a blast.  The other connection part is their music is HEAVY!  Their 1993 debut demo What is Heavy? and 1994 demo Crushing Design put them on the map and to this day their core sound is the same.  Heavy death metal with some monster grooves and brutal blasts.

Over the years the band have crafted their sound, becoming better musicians along the way, as seen on the excellent Point of View and Blind Follower demos in 1995 and 1997.  The 1999 debut album, Plague is monstrously heavy and was given a nice remix/remaster a few years ago and then in 2015 the Bow Down to Extinction sophomore album shredded the world into a bajillion pieces.  Well welcome 2020 with the third and arguably most vicious sounding TON album to date Ashes Where They Stood.  8 songs in a brisk 31 minutes that contain easy enough, mainly one word song titles, so you all can remember them in this informational overload day and age.

“Provocateur” starts with a nice isolated guitar riff, before bursting into a blast with Jeff leading the vocal fray, but the other gents lends some screams and grunts as well. The 54 second part has a monster groove, before a killer early 90’s era death metal beat comes in and then rips right into a faster segment. This is the tightest TON have sounded and the song is heavy and check out that rhythm section at the 1:45 part.  All the instruments coming together in a swelling groove which I can see a bunch of Lysol cleaning wipes hoarders just being devoured alive in a vat of boiling oil.  Some double pounding drums nearing the end and the song is ferocious with a capital F.  “Manzanar” is up next, having been a single  and has a nice little opening bass solo, right before the killer blast and alternating vocal styles.  I notice some technical aspects, which really never reared themselves on prior releases.  The technical and somewhat melodic riffing mixed in on this track, breaks some things up among the monster brutality.  This really is a more mature sounding TON and is a welcome addition.  Jeff eventually lets out an excellent growl and this song rips.

A few years ago Jeff approached me and asked if I would ever do guest vocals on a TON release and I told him I would be honored.  The Ohio death metal scene is near n dear to me and Jeff is a great friend who has always shown me hospitality and when on tour in the 90’s allowed us to stay at his place and he and his wife made us an awesome Italian mean.  I still remember the pasta and their homemade cheesy garlic bread.  Jeff hatched a really cool idea.  TON wrote an original song called “Defect” and the singer from Fully Consumed and myself would be doing the singing for the entire song.  Super wild.  I did all the lows, louder power-violence vocals and super long growls.  They paired nicely with the other singer, who has a higher register with his raspy vocals.  The song is terrifically heavy and it came out killer.  “Defect” was the 2019 single and is featured in the middle of this album.  Plenty of blasts, grooves and vocal patterns to land you in the rubber room.  I experimented a little with my vocals in some sections and overall super great to be able to collaborate with one of my favorite bands, still all these years later.  “Human War Machine” is the perfect title of a death metal song.  Immediately the song erupts into a monster heavy hitting blast beat and the drums are chest collapsing on this song.  Tumultuous grooves and the hard hitting rhythm section igniting fires, just like this album cover.  A little dissonant riffing at the 2.25 mid-paced part and again, a little something new TON throwing at us – keep doing it fellas.

The production on Ashes Where They Stood is loud and in your face.  The drums are pummeling and the instruments and Jeff’s bass is prominent.  Everything sounds great.  It’s also great to see the band throw in a little melody every so often, some different types of riffing and the album features their strongest rhythm section to date.  This has to do with TON playing so long together that they probably can write each other’s parts by now.  TON backs up their recordings live as well, putting on equally heavy shows and quite honestly this is true heaviness, at a fraction of the cost, of what some bigger bands pay on productions, still sounding not even a fraction like TON.  Please like their FB page, they’re also on Bandcamp, buy their merch and music.  They are one of the hardest working and longest underground death metal acts to this day.  Ashes Where They Stood is one of this years true heavy and best death metal albums.  Buy or Die!!



[Visit the band's website]
Written by Frank Rini
November 11th, 2020


  1. Commented by: nicholas kulczycki

    Love this band. I still have their crushing design demo. They came through Mirage in Minneapolis with Drogheda when i was probably fifteen or sixteen. Impressed with their longevity. Sick review as always Frank!!

  2. Commented by: F.Rini

    Thanks for the shoutout Nick. Yeah TON are a big staple in the mid west scene.

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