Lillian Axe is one of those 80′s era bands that slipped under my radar as I was making my first in roads into music. At the time, I was getting into the more popular acts, so while I remember the name kicking around, they never made it to my player.
Now, fourteen years removed from their last studio album, Lillian Axe is back with their 6th full length release, and it sounds good. Very good in fact. It’s a strong album which focuses on the songwriting, with finely crafted rock songs and an absense of any excessive frills.
Waters Rising marks the return of the band with a new singer. Former lead singer Ron Taylor, resigned from the band in 2004 and was replaced by Derrick Lefevre. Now, without any past experience with them, I have no real grounds for comparing the two singers. But I can say that Lefevre delivers the goods. He doesn’t really have a great range — at least as evidenced by this album — but he does fit the band very well. Lefevre delivers just the right inflection, and brings a lot of weight to the material. His fine vocal performance combines just right with the very melodic riff-centric music and nicely crafted solos from band leader Steve Blaze.
The album starts with the title track, opening with solo guitar before kicking into full rock mode. “Waters Rising” gives a good indication of the rest of the album, but it is far from the strongest on the disk. Still, it proved to be a good introduction to the band, with its nicely melodic verses and a more edgy chorus riff. It is followed by the darkly, and melodically atmospheric “Antarctica.”
But it wasn’t until the third track that everything began to sink in for me. Track three, “Become a Monster,” is definitely one of the heavier tracks on the set. There was something about the heavy riffs, nice drumming, and vocal pattern that really sucked me in.
The mood keeps it up through the next two songs, although the sound is different. First up is “Quarantine,” which slows the pace a bit, has a nice crunchy guitar riff, but showcases some really nice songwriting, with each instrument falling neatly into place. This is followed by one of the finest songs here, “I Have to Die, Goodbye.” It is a rather depressing tune that brings acoustic guitar and bongos to the mix in a song about love, loss, and the inability to move on.
Standouts from the second half include the ballad “Until the End of the World.” It has a nice, gentle flow to its acoustic/electric mix. As good as that song is, the stakes are upped in the very next song, “Fields of Yesterday,” which brings in a string section. The song clocks in at over eight minutes, and features some absolutely gorgeous atmospherics. It is simply a beautiful song. The more high powered energy returns in “Thirst,” a strong rocking song.
All of this builds to the final two songs. First is the sprawling epic, “Deep in the Black,” which features a big, expansive sound that stands out in contrast to the rest of the album. The last track, an instrumental called “5,” also sounds nothing like the other material found here. Heavy riffs, driving drums, and blazing (no pun intended) lead work. This is a wild metal instrumental, stepping away from the hard rock sounds of the rest of the album, and more into a strictly metal sound. This song is truly impressive.
Bottomline: Very nice album. Some good rock tunes, some impressive atmospheric sounds, and just all around great songwriting. This turned out to be considerably better than what I had imagined when it arrived on my doorstep. While it does not break any new ground, it is still definitely solid. The worst thing I can say about it is that the album cover art is rather lame.