Axenstar is a power metal band from Sweden, and they are definitely a solid act. However, while I like the album, it doesn’t really rise to the next level of the genre. Still, I am glad to hear bands still playing the power metal style.
It is a shame that the metal scene that gets any mainstream press in the US is such a narrow sampling of what is out there under the metal banner. Yes, I know there are bands out there. It is just sometimes hard to find them. Which is why I like it when all these bands that I don’t know — and there are a lot of them — arrive on my doorstep offering another taste.
Anyway, back to Axenstar. They are a solid metal act that gets down to business and demonstrates the ability to hit the next level. Yet, there is something that I cannot quite put my finger on that does not allow me to register Final Requiem as anything more than good.
There is a great combination of melody and heaviness, driving drums, some nice solos, and an overall catchiness that will get your body in motion. You will find that you want to bang your head and raise the horns, but if you stop for a moment, you may find something lacking.
I think it starts with the vocals of Magnus Winterwild, which leave me underwhelmed. No, his voice is not bad, but at the same time I did not find a lot of variety to it. It was all right down the middle and just did not really step to the front and hold my attention. On the other hand, the guitar interplay between Winterwild and newcomer Joakim Jonsson is very good. The two are in synch and offer up some nice riffs and runs. Likewise, drummer Thomas Ohlsson is solid with quick, perfectly timed double bass and fills that will keep you coming back for more.
This is the fourth release for the band, but my first experience with them, so I have no reference for comparing to their previous releases. I do know that in between Final Requiem and the last release, The Inquisition, there was a shakeup in the band which saw the departure of two guitatists, including founding member Peter Johansson. I am not sure what affect that may have had on the group dynamic. Still, I am conflicted, as I want to like this, but there is a flatness to it, and it all comes back to the vocals which just seem to hold everything back.
Final Requiem gets off to a good start with the surging title track, a song driven forward by the incessant drums. It is a good introduction to what the rest of the album is to offer. That is followed by the strong guitar chugging of “Condemnation” and the equally strong track “The Divine.”
Musically, it is hard to find any major fault with Axenstar. Everything really fits together well — they are technically very precise — and not a note is out of place. I can imagine how this might sound in the live environment.
Bottomline: This is not bad, not by a longshot. It just strikes me more as a missed opportunity. The music is solid, but the vocals left me flat. Still, if you are a fan of power metal, you will no doubt find the good parts of this album and enjoy it. You may even look forward to what may be next, as I do.