Tuesday 14 April 2020

Axxis - Virus of a Modern Time (2020)

Country: Germany
Style: Heavy/Power Metal
Rating: 6/10
Release Date: 10 Apr 2020
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Last year, Axxis celebrated the thirtieth anniversary of their debut, 1989's Kingdom of the Night, by releasing a double album of songs from their eight years on EMI re-recorded by the current line-up. Technicaly, they've been a band for longer than that, having started out in the early eighties as Anvil and then Axis, before adding an X to finally attain uniqueness.

I haven't heard them in a long time, but they play their heavy metal with a strong shade of power metal nowadays but, on the basis of this half hour EP alone, I'm not convinced. What's odd is that the reason why changes from one track to another, suggesting that there's good material underneath a variety of problems.

For instance, I kind of liked the opener quite a lot. It's entitled Babylon and it has an Accept-like drive, a decent enough chorus and a good treatment of samples. I say "kind of" because I'd have liked it a lot more if the drum sound hadn't been tinny and the lead vocal hadn't grated. How much of these problems are in the mix and how much the performance? That's a good question because both are less problematic on other tracks.

For instance, on the title track the drums sound beefier and the vocals are commanding and emphatic, even in English (Bernhard Weiß sounds a lot better when he switches back to his native German). There are two versions of Virus of a Modern Time here and they're oddly next to each other. The first runs a little shy of four minutes, while the video edit exceeds five. The latter is the better version, with time to breathe, but both work, if not particularly one right after the other with only a single song following them.

After Weiß, who's been with the band from the beginning, the longest serving member is Harry Öllers on keyboards and I appreciated his contributions. For much of the time we don't notice him, but whenever he does show up he tends to elevate the material. He's the siren on the title track and the pulse on War Games, which ends up sounding a little like heavy Sisters of Mercy. He's surely responsible for all the little gimmickry elsewhere too, like samples or effects. These tend to work pretty much all the time, which is rare.

The other band member I'd call out is Rob Schomaker because his bass is one of the most prominent prominent aspects throughout and he does a lot to make songs like Last Eagle work. Weiß and new fish Matthias Degener are strong on guitar but all the stronger with Schomaker underpinning them. There are nods to a more modern, industrial-tinged guitar style that I don't think help too much but this happily stays heavy metal.

There's good stuff here, but I think I'd prefer Axxis if they showed up on a radio show a track at a time, rather than on a six (sort of seven) track EP, let alone a full studio album. Let's see if that opinion holds when they put out their next full length release. And let's see how much it changes when I hear drums that sound like drums.

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