Smaxone is a new band from Denmark put together by former Elopa members Casper Skafte on guitars, bass, & keyboards, singer Claus Lillelund, current Mnemic drummer Brian "Brylle" Rasmussen, and former Mnemic singer Michael Bogballe (the band has also just recruited Mnemic bassist Tomas "Obeast" Cowan Koefoed to beef up the bottom end). Regression is the debut album, out now on Scarlet Records, and it is a fine example of melodic and progressive extreme metal, littered with doses of memorable pop and electronic influences. This is a CD that will have you singing the catchy melodies over and over, banging your head to the crushingly heavy parts, and marveling at the intricate and progressive arrangements. At more than a few occasions you'll hear references to bands like Strapping Young Lad, The Devin Townsend Band, Fear Factory, Faith No More, and even a little Pantera. The band uses the dual lead vocals quite effectively, as Lillelund covers the clean passages and Bogballe handles the aggressive vocals. Both sound very much like Devin Townsend at both ends of the spectrum, the melodic and gorgeous harmonies he presents with DTB, and the maniacal screams of SYL. Musically, Regression is filled with as assortment of crunchy riffs, speedy rhythms, and massive layers of keyboards and synthesizers. This is the part that is the most intriguing, as the keys play an important roll here. On the title track, huge washes of symphonic and futuristic synths wash over the landscape while heavy guitars chug and the dual vocals styles do battle. It's almost like the best moment from Devin Townsend's Ocean Machine, and the song is catchy and memorable as hell. The same can be said for "Freedom 2003", a tune with hooks aplenty, proving that Skafte has the knack for writing a memorable and catchy song, yet he is able to also add in enough bone crunching metal as well.
"Smiling" again follows a similar path, featuring lovely piano & synths, plus soaring melodies thanks to Lillelund's enchanting vocals. Bogballe runs with the ball on "Waiting", a manic tune that mixes aggressive Pantera styled metal with the more melodic side of early 90's Metallica, and the band hits home with some wild Fear Factory influenced cyber metal on "Bad Sensation". One of the best tunes though is "Dead But Alive", a scorching metal piece that sees Bogballe's death metal shouts leading the charge with Lillelund's clean vocals providing the chorus. This one has some huge and killer riffs from Skafte as well as plenty of intricate and orchestra synths. It's a song that will stick in your head for some time. Fans of poppy prog will love the melodic "Afterlife", another sing-along number with plenty of keyboard washes and Lillelund with his alluring voice that just drags you into the piece. Smaxone gets downright complex on the textured and intricate "If You Could", a prog-metal number with layers of intense guitar & keyboard passages and great vocals from both singers. The CD is wrapped around "I See You" parts 1 and 2, both being short keyboard & vocal drenched numbers which really begin and end this wonderful album perfectly.
If it sounds like I am raving a bit about this one, it's because I am. Smaxone's Regression is one of the best debut's I have heard in some time, and 2006's first huge surprise. Fans of melodic metal with a smattering of extreme, as well as progressive rock and metal lovers, will have a blast with this one. Highly recommended.
1. I See You (Pt. 1)
3. Freedom 2003
6. Bad Sensation
7. Dead But Alive
9. If You Could
10. I See You (Pt. 2)