Axamenta is a young band from Belgium, and like many others, I discovered them when I heard Daniel Gildenlow from Pain of Salvation was going to guest on their album. Despite having never heard their earlier demos, my curiousity was piqued and I immediately took note of the album's release date and have been spinning it for nearly a whole year now. Much to my surprise, Ever-Arch-I-Tech-Ture has stood the test of time with me and deserves to be heard more by fans of extreme metal.
Shiver Records describes the style of Axamenta as "modern progressive black metal", perhaps because of the vocals used by Peter Meynckens. His throat-ripping, blood-curdling screams are right up there with the likes of Dimmu Borgir, but he is also capable of shifting into low death metal growls in order to portray different moods, considering this is a concept album. Most of the album contains what we would call black vocals, as the songs are chock full of aggressive screaming, but there is also a good dose of orchestrated synth work, some sound effects, ferocious guitar riffs that touch on everything from thrash to death to black to progressive, and mind-blowing drumming. Unlike most "trOO" black metal bands, Axamenta is unafraid to use a solid production on the album, as opposed to drums that sound like they're played on cardboard boxes. Tom van Ooesterwijck's snare sound is full and exudes power from start to finish.
This is a concept album about a man who claims he discovered the true architecture behind the universe and proclaim doom theories for which he is institutionalized. We follow him as he relays his story to his sister who then continues his research (hence the notes in the booklet, sort of like Dream Theater's Scenes from a Memory). Basically, the storyline recalls that of Ayreon's first album The Final Experiment in that this, too, is an adventure story throughout time, fleshed out with the duality between reality and fiction, good and evil, and technology overtaking our lives. Also, the reason why the title of the album reads Ever-Arch-I-Tech-Ture is that the "I" in the middle represents the central character in the album, which is also why the title song appears right in the middle (track seven out of thirteen pieces) of the album.
Highlights include the bone-crushing, technically adept riffery of "Ashes to Flesh", one of the few songs with some clean vocals utilised. The contrast between constant brutal screaming and calm clean harmonies works particularly well when the guitar work also alternates between the mechanical riffing and acoustic sections. Ian van Gemeren and Sven Deckers on guitars are a tremendous duo. They churn out crushing riffage as well as well composed, moody passages laced with densely arranged acoustic notes and orchestral elements. "Demons Shelter Within" brings forth plenty of symphonic keyboard arrangements, lots of crunchy guitars, and impossibly fast double bass drums. The keys particularly stand out here, much as they do on the slightly Eastern-tinged "A Nation in Atrophy", complete with more guttural singing than the typical black shrieks.
The entirely clean-sung "Threnody for an Endling" sees Pain of Salvation's Daniel Gildenlow not only writing his own vocal patterns but also arranging the whole track by himself. He even adapted his own lyrical interpretation, lending the song a unique Pain of Salvation vibe. His vocals are utterly amazing; and you get to hear him whistling, screaming, harmonising, and speaking. He does it all within the short course of five minutes. The acoustic ending of this track is simply gorgeous. "Of Genesis and Apocalypse" recalls Arcturus circa Sideshow Symphonies with its ever-present static of radio excerpts, sound effects, piano melody, and curious blend of strings and black metal idioms. The narration at the end is also important as it gives away a strong message in the storyline. Actually this album carries a good dose of filmic quality to it.
The artwork is simply stunning and contains lots of hidden secrets. The pictures, notes, lyrics, and imagery also make up part of the concept. Actually there was an interesting competition about it a while back on the band's website, so you may want to delve deep into it. I myself got around to analysing the album months after picking it up, simply because the music was way too busy and eventful to overlook.
Ever-Arch-I-Tech-Ture was recorded by Jacob Hansen, who also played the second solo on "A Nation in Atrophy", and mixed by the great Fredrik Nordstrom. Production-wise the album is masterful - one doesn't have to be a genius to realize this band's potential.
Chapter 1: The Chainreaction is Initiated
- Demons Shelter Within
- Ashes to Flesh
- A Nation in Atrophy
- The Midnight Grotesque
Chapter 2: The Chainreaction is Terminated
- Prophet Set to Witness
- Threnody for an Endling
Chapter 3: The Chainreaction is Saturated
- Ravager 126.96.36.199.
- Of Genesis and Apocalypse
- Shackles Cross
- The Omniscient