Review Summary: Bullets rip through the night sky, illuminating a horrifying sight below; tenebris death and blood mangled amidst the razor wire and wet mud of the combat zone.
The snare drum pounds out rapidity reminiscent of a WWII machine gun, spurting out dozens of rounds at a time as the allied forces dart from cover to cover. In the background, the droning of combat planes soaring in combat in the skies above. Tanks shell out rounds towards enemies beyond the horizon, and blood is everywhere.
Axis Of Advance are a Canadian "War Metal" band who spew out some of the ugliest, most suffocating metal out there. Lying somewhere between a muddy Behemoth and fellow Canadian war-metallers Mitochondrion, the three piece act from Edmonton's third LP, Obey, proves again that these guys know how to make listeners *** their pants.
War Metal itself in an interesting topic of discussion. There aren't many bands who fit the description, so the very existence of the sub-genre is debatable. The sound could be likened to blackened death metal more than anything else; murky production is ever present, however the emphasis on lower bass frequencies keep the death metal influence intact. Blast beats frequent the tremolo picked chords but unlike black metal / DM, the blasting, unleashed in spurts, reminds the listener of the horrifying reality of machine gun fire on the battlefield and are used for dramatic emphasis on a musical movement as opposed to holding a steady beat. The vocal work tends to fall more in line with brutal death metal, often gutteral and almost always incomprehensible.
Obey is not a pretty metal album. You won't find any hooks here, only the terrible reality of war captured in the form of music. Axis Of Advance's wall of sound is a well orchestrated piece of chaos, not unlike a battle. As the omnipresent listener, the tactics used are clearly observed, as is the chaos of an unruly enemies' own counter-tactics. The song structures bring forth a calculated design to the music, representing tactics in their finest form. Around this structure however, Axis Of Advance craft something unique; they craft a calculated chaos, the unforeseeable complications of war itself. The drumming here steals the show. The snare drum pounds out ugly gunfire, and the fills-a-plenty are always frantic and wonderfully well placed. The guitar work on this album is also more than stellar, the string's murky tone drones forth like tanks with oddly timed tremolo picked chords and chugs. In the distance, the psychopathic personification of "the machine" commands his soldiers to march towards their demise; a commandingly ghastly shout.
Clocking in at 37 minutes, Obey is a short battle. However war knows no limits of how much destruction it can cause in a single instant, and after 37 minutes, you ears will be ringing with the sounds of a bloodied battlefield full of twisted steel and mangled corpses.
Waxing poetic about this album aside, it is not perfect. War is not perfect. The album churns onward, without straying from its final destination, and here lies the issue. It seems Axis Of Advance is haunted by flashbacks of the war, playing over and over in their minds without relent. There is no calm amidst this storm, no break in the smokey sky, no cease in the gunfire. This is a frantic, confusing and suffocating battle, and because of this, Axis Of Advance have crafted not only the sound of battle captured in Metal, but also an album that is a battle for the listener themselves. The guitars are far too low in the mix, and any flicker of a soothing melody arising from the strings is instantly ripped to shreds by rapid, gunfire snare-work. It takes endurance and a good ear to enjoy this album, as there isn't much for the inexperienced metalhead to hold on to. For the experienced headbangers and fans of the genre however, the album will be sure to knock off socks like a landmine, as the musicianship and songwriting is excellent once one gets past the murky production.
Its an inaccessible piece of music that will scar most, and like war, shows no compassion for anyone. So if your like me, and love the feeling of fear crawling down your chest, give this a whirl. Best case scenario, you keep coming back, like the main dude in The Hurt Locker. Worst case scenario you leave this battle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.