Review Summary: Moments is the debut album of Stealing Axion that combines modern progressive metal with melodic death metal and djent, and show amazing potential with inspired songwriting in an especially excellent latter half of the album.
Societies come and societies fall. This has been the trend for centuries, even millennia. Our modern day society, however, seems to be strong and resilient. Our way of life seems indestructible. There’s no doubt on the average person’s mind that we will overcome whatever obstacle that is presented to us, because we are rich in technology, resources and knowledge.
Stealing Axion is a band from Tacoma, Washington that explores the other possibility: an inevitable breaking down of society; a total collapse of our current system. In their concept and debut album called Moments
Josh DeShazo (guitar & vocals) and Ben Gendro (technical specialist) describe a future society crumbling down due to the ignorance and arrogance of its inhabitants towards a natural disaster caused by flaming outbursts of the sun. The story is told from a protagonists’ point of view, who tries to warn society in the first few songs about the upcoming apocalypse. Later on in Moments you follow this individual while he struggles to survive in a collapsed world that is first drenched in chaos and later desolate and lonely. At the end of the album many years have gone by and some groups of people apparently did survive and attempt to rebuild a society together once more, while the protagonist observes this skeptically and hopes for the best but fears people will make the same mistakes that will in the end destroy them all once again.
Stealing Axion present this post-apocalyptic theme musically with a combination of modern progressive metal and djent, alternating between melodeath-ish and groovy heavy sections that remind us of Periphery, Tesseract and Gojira, and highly atmospheric djent parts that resemble Uneven Structure. The fact that Moments
is Stealing Axion’s first full-length release and the fact that they handled the producing, recording, engineering and editing themselves at home, it is an amazing achievement that the production on this album is crystal-clear. All individual instruments are easily distinguishable, the album is loud but dynamic when it tries to be and highly organic when the tempo slows down. Furthermore, all instrumentation on this album is quite groovy and technically top-notch, but most remarkable is that Stealing Axion makes use of three vocalists (Phil Willmarth who also does bass, and Dan Forbrech and Josh DeShazo who also do guitars). This affects the album in such a way that the vocals are super-dynamic and diverse, with different styles of grunting and superb clean singing being alternated through the songs, while Stealing Axion succeeds in still sounding as a unit.
The first song kicks off with most of what Moments
has to offer: ‘Mirage of Hope’
starts with a highly atmospheric intro that leads right into mechanical heavy groove drumming with simultaneous bass and guitar pounding where one of Stealing Axion’s three vocalists shows the grunting abilities of his vocal cords. A couple of minutes into the song Stealing Axion’s other face is revealed: the heavy riffage and drumming subside and make place for more atmospheric keys and excellent clean singing. All in all, ‘Mirage of Hope’
is a really decent song to start off this album. Moments continues with ‘Solar’
, which discusses the natural disaster that ends most of humanity and therefore focuses on the heavy side of Stealing Axion’s sound. The lead at the end of this track is stellar, but overall the song feels less inspired than its predecessor and becomes a tad repetitive after a bit. The rest of the first half of the album consists of songs that show both the heavy and the atmospheric side of Stealing Axion well with ‘Everything and Nothing’
, ‘The Unwanted Gift’
. There are really interesting ideas in these tracks such as excellent leads and brilliant lyrical sections, but overall these songs fail to convince us that Stealing Axion has anything unique to offer over genre colleagues Periphery and Tesseract due to the high similarity between tracks and somewhat forgettable choruses. The one true highlight on the first part of Moments is ’47 Days Later’
, that starts heavy and groovy right from the start and succeeds in setting a relentless aggressive tone with a bone crushingly heavy and damn catchy chorus.
Halfway into Moments Stealing Axion has offered little to truly amaze the average progressive metal and djent fan. However, Moments is an album that is severely back-loaded and has most of its truly excellent songs on the latter half that showcase what amazing potential Stealing Axion actually has. This part starts with ‘Collapse’
, a number with an unsettling atmosphere that has Stealing Axion alternating between a catchy cleanly sung chorus and heightened adrenalin-level inducing grunted verses in the first four and a half minutes, after which a mostly instrumental section starts where Stealing Axion show for another four and a half minutes that they are able to produce with their excellent technical skills incredible guitar leads and drum lines that are both impressive and full of musical hooks. ‘It’s Too Late Now’
is Stealing Axion’s power-ballad on this album that works surprisingly well. Due to this band having three lead vocalists it’s unclear who is responsible for this songs' vocals, but this mysterious individuals delivery is excellently; ‘It’s Too Late Now’
is full of raw emotion, melancholy and hopelessness. ‘Sleepless’
(no, not the Anathema cover this time) is easily the heaviest song on this album that starts with drum pounding and bass slamming so heavy and energetic that one cannot help but nod along strongly. As suddenly as it started all heavy instrumentation disappears leading us into the amazing gentle cleanly sung verses that are full of despair and frustration, right before the epic drumming and heavy riffing return for the most memorable and fist-pumpingly heavy chorus on this entire album. Especially the lyrics on ‘Sleepless’
are among the most convincing on this entire album that induce lively visions of the protagonist frustrated about humanity in a world destroyed by itself, getting ready to make the same mistake again:
“I lie awake and dream of the future,
A million people that start anew.
Transcend the past and hope for tomorrow.
Rebuild it all and destroy ourselves in time.”
‘Moments Part 1’
and ‘Moments Part 2’
are the final two songs on this album that together clock over 21 minutes. This is where all restraints are shaken loose and Stealing Axion flex their musical muscles and reveal how far they can take songwriting in this type of music. ‘Moments Part 1’
changes from one catchy riff to another amazing double bass drum section, flowing from one part to the other seamlessly, all the time accompanied by the three vocalists’ excellent grunting and singing. ‘Moments Part 1’
works as a summary of the heavy and brooding side of Stealing Axion and one almost wonders why there is so much musical genius at the end of the album while the start of it was rather stale musically. ‘Moments Part 2’
kicks off just as savage as ‘Part 1’
ended, with typical but excellently executed modern death metal minimalistic riffage. Before we start to wonder whether ‘Moments Part 2’
is going to be as crushing as ‘Part 1’
all goes quiet on minute mark 3, and the heavy groovy riffing is replaced by Pink Floydian smooth guitar solos that last for several minutes. The latter six minutes the song feels a lot like ‘It’s Too Late Now’
, with beautiful melancholic yet somewhat hopeful singing, alternated with the double bass-ferocity of ‘Sleepless’
is an excellent modern progressive metal album with strong influences from melodic death metal and djent where Stealing Axion takes all the best from Periphery, Tesseract, Gojira and Uneven Structure and makes it their own in a unique way. The first half of the album is not quite as memorable as the latter part, but especially the last 40 minutes – starting with ‘Collapse’
– of this 76 minute long album are truly magnificent and should be checked out by all those who appreciate this style of metal. Stealing Axion show on Moments
that they have amazing potential, yet only time will tell whether their follow-up release (released in 2014) will live up to the high quality of Moments