Unbelievably 2009 sees Axxis celebrate their 20th anniversary, which makes it all the more surprising that Utopia, their 12th album, is the first time that I have come into contact with them.
For a band that has been on the scene so long it is to their credit that Utopia sounds instantly fresh and relevant. This is no retro metal-fest, instead you get tight well written melodic power metal that is strongly flavoured, although not drowned, in excellent keyboards. For most of the tracks on show a good reference point would be to blend early Helloween or Gamma Ray with the likes of Serenity. Therefore it would be fair to suggest that Axxis certainly don't have any intentions of reinventing the metal mould, however if straight ahead Euro power metal appeals to you then the likes of the title track, or "Underworld" roar along in such a way that you can't help but get caught up in the larger than life havoc created by Marco Wriedt's guitar and Harry Oellers' keyboards.
Oellers feature strongly across all the tracks; however he has a deft touch and embellishes the songs rather than swamping them with huge power chords. For the most part his playing closely follows the guitar melody and works extremely well with it. When he does come more to the forefront as he does on the stand out "Heavy Rain" his contribution is first class.
The rhythm section of drummer Alex Landenburg and Rob Schomaker on bass know how to keep things on track with their firm, dense contributions. Landenburg is particularly impressive, managing to keep the music tight and focused while still giving his kit a severe work out.
With all the impressive musicianship behind him vocalist Berhard Weiss consistently proves he is up to scratch. He has the right amount of power and melody to shine within the riffs, especially in the afore mentioned "Heavy Rain", "Underworld" and "Eyes of a Child". He has the classic Germanic mix of Michael Kiske and Klaus Meine that demands your attention. His performance on ballad "Fathers Eye" shows a completely different side to him, coming across as passionate yet vulnerable. Very classy indeed.
With its excellent production and mix Utopia may not be the most innovative metal release of the year, however if good honest, believable, heavy music is what you crave, then joining Axxis in their anniversary celebrations is very much recommended.
1. Journey to Utopia
3. Last man on earth
4. Fass mich an
5. Sarah wanna die
6. My fathers' eyes
7. The monsters crawl
8. Eyes of a child
9. Heavy rain
10. For you I will die
Bonus on Digipak:
12. Taste my blood
13. 20 Years Anniversary Song
Added: September 24th 2009
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Band Website
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Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2009-09-24 06:51:10
Solid performances, excellent production, catchy, often times crunchy power metal songs laced with symphonic keyboards, strong vocals, and some eye popping cover & booklet art all come together on Utopia, the latest from veteran band Axxis. The fact that these guys have literally flown under the radar for 20 years is amazing, as there's much to like about this band, especially if you are into acts such as Gamma Ray, Sonata Arctica, Epica, Stratovarius, Helloween, and Edguy. How can one resist such enjoyable, melodic power metal fare such as "My Fathers Eyes", "Last Man on Earth", the thrilling title track, and the epic sounds of "For You I Will Die", especially if you are a fan of this sort of music? In short, it would be pretty hard to. Axxis do all the little things right, and while Utopia is not going to set any records for originality, this album is so well put together and just all around 'solid' (there's that 's' word again!), that it's hard to find any faults. Gotta love when the band get all massive, mixing power & prog metal on the heavy "The Monsters Crawl", a tune that, despite some slightly cheesy lyrics, features some real beefy guitar riffs, loads of orchestral synths, and the soaring vocals of Bernhard Weiss. There's even a touch of growls on the chorus, giving this one a real varied sound. Expect plenty of guitar and keyboard duels throughout this album, showing the chops of both Marco Wriedt & Harry Dellers, and the rhythm team of drummer Alex Landenburgh and bassist Rob Schomaker and locked in from start to finish. Fans of big, huge, epic, symphonic metal sounds need go no further than "Eyes of a Child", which, if you added some female vocals in place of Bernhard's, would fit right in on a Nightwish or Epica album.
Back real quick to the cover art, sure, it's fantasy tinged power metal fodder all the way, but anyone who is into sea monsters, dragons, etc, will get a real kick out of it. My only gripe with Utopia is the inclusion of one song sung in their native German tongue, which kind of sticks out like a sore thumb here, but otherwise this is mostly all killer and little filler.
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