When most people not really into death metal think about the genre, most of them think about bands like Suffocation, Death, and Cannibal Corpse, or about the wave of brutal death bands (devourment, guttural secrete, etc). Good bands, mind you, but to a lot of folks they sound, well, dated and/or unoriginal, or just plain boring and they fail to attract new people into the genre. Following this path, death metal would stagnate and die. Truth is, in the last decade, death metal was in need of a revival in order to survive. This need is being answered by bands like Martyr, Atheretic, Augury, newer Cryptopsy, Opeth (to a certain extent), and many other. Among these "many others" stand a Montreal death metal quintet called "Neuraxis".
line-up on this album:
Rob Milley - Guitar
Steven Henry - Guitar
Yan Thiel - Bass
Tommy McKinnon - Drums
Ian Campbell - Vocals
(note: a couple of month after the release, Steven Henry left the band)
Alex Erian (Despised Icon)
Jason Netherton (Misery Index)
Pat Loisel (Augury)
Guillaume Audet (Nefastus Dies)
First of all, let me say that this is not an ordinary death metal album. It's even categorized as melodic death metal by some people, which is true to a certain extent, but unlike a ***load of melodeath band, Neuraxis isn't doing any compromise to put melody into their compositions. By that I mean that the intesity and/or brutality is still present during melodic passages in songs.
You'l also notice that the artwork, done by Mark Riddick ( www.riddickbros.com) is very different from a cannibal corpse album cover. The band has said that the artwork represent a mind in constant evolution (or, a mind in trilateral progression)
And then there are the lyrics. Again, not your ordinary death metal lyrics. Vocalist Ian Campbell doesn't write songs about murders, rape, or good ol' gore, but about philosophy, which opens the lyrics to a very wide field of interpretation, and it strikes me as a breath of fresh air. It has been said that Ian wrote a load of lyrics after reading the book of Urantia, so check out http://www.urantia.org if you're interested. The lyrics on this album focus on the trilateral progression of a human mind, and that means the Philosophical, spiritual and scientifical progression. As you could imagine, it covers a lot of possible themes, ranging from wisdom (clarity) to a "consesus for one polar power" (Chamber of Gaurdian). I have yet to study philosophy, so I can't really get to deep into the analysis of these words, but it still makes you think if you take the time to read them.
Let's now talk about the music.
First, there are the guitars. On this release, long time fans of the band will note that there are much less solo spots than on their previous releases as there are only 4 solos on this album, of which 3 are in "thought adjuster", a song that was written quite some time before the rest of the songs. This time, the complexity of the music is most notable in the song structure, which, to me, denotes a higher level of maturity in comparison to early albums. Ocasionnal use of clean electric guitar (A curative struggle, Chamber of Gaurdian, for example) gives a nice feeling of "intelligence" or "complexity". Those words are not really accurate to describe what those parts bring to the songs, because, well, its hard to describe! Let's just say that it's a part of what makes Neuraxis a unique band.
THen there is the drum. On the last efforts, the band kind of seemed to be holding back a bit because of the lack of speed of the previous drummer (whose name I cannot remember right now). Well, this feeling os all gone with the addition of drummer Tommy McKinnon on this release, which thrust the band into a new era of tightness and speed. He seems to be a really mature drummer, as he posses impressive technical skills yet he doesn't need to go "in your face" to prove it. He shows a great sens of restraint, which is something that I think is lacking in modern music. The only problems I have with his drumming is that sometimes he doesn't push his fills far enough, like in "Shatter the wisdom" for example.
Bassist Yan Thiel seems to be the musical weak spot of the band. Not that he's bad, but I think that he's not original enough. Most of the time he just mimics the guitar patters. But his good stage presence makes up for that !
Finally, The vocals. I must say that Ian Campbell is definitively one of the most polyvalent death metal vocalists out there. He delivers everything from good old brutal death pig style vocals to higher pitched screams ( but note that some of the higher pitched vocals on the album are performed by guests) while also being able to do a standard, powerful growl. The thing I really like about his growl is that most of the time you can understand what he's saying, and it really adds to the overall experiance of his unusual lyrics.
In conclusion, well, what can I say... If you are among those who think that death metal is in need of something new, well, go ahead and buy this. And if you ever get to see this band live, it's truly a special experience. They all have killer stage presence, they are really tight, their merch is not expensive and they are all gret guys to talk to.
-songs are not repetitive
-The bass is not really innovative
-Sometimes drummer Tommy McKinnon show too much restraint (but thats only if you're being picky)
Shatter The Wisdom
(both tracks are available for download on http://www.willowtip.com/store/product_detail.aspx?id=362)
P.S. Sorry for spelling mistakes, inacurate vocabulary and ocasionnal bad syntaxe, english is not my first language.