Axxis

Utopia

Written by: GR on 21/08/2009 00:09:44

Twenty years and eleven studio albums since their debut, the release of “Utopia” is certainly a milestone in terms of longevity for Axxis. Unsurprisingly both their line-up and sound has changed since the late 80s, with only singer Bernhard Weiss and keyboardist Harry Oellers remaining from the old days. In terms of their music, they’ve progressed from a heavy metal/hard rock sound to full-on Euro power metal; soaring vocals and heavy keyboard use present and correct. After my first couple of listens to "Utopia" I had come to the conclusion that it was a decent enough album, but not one that would be likely to garner repeated listens after reviewing. I'm pleased to report, however, that the album has come across as a stronger effort with each extra listen.

As already mentioned (and which should be obvious from the cover art alone), Axxis play the type of power metal that is much loved on the continent, especially in their native Germany. Despite early success ("Kingdom of the Night" became the best selling debut album by a Hard Rock band in Germany in 1989) I think it's fair to say they have never reached the heights of other Teutonic bands like Helloween and Gamma Ray. Of course, we all know that commercial success – or a lack thereof – isn't necessarily an indication of quality and this is certainly true for recent Axxis output. Previous album "Doom of Destiny" received positive reviews and "Utopia" looks set to continue the trend, if my views on it are anything to go by at least.

Axxis are not doing anything original here and naysayers will be able to level the usual criticisms at the album – mainly that it's all a bit clichéd and shallow – but for fans of European power metal there is a lot of enjoyable listening to be had. From the storming title track to the awkwardly titled "Sarah Wanna Die", the energy is high and the melodies are memorable. In fact, most of the album is of a high standard and sees the band laying down some songs that I have a feeling would be brilliant in a live context. As with most albums, there are some tracks which, whilst not being bad per se, do not match up in terms of quality with the rest of the album. "Fass mich an" starts off strongly with a high energy riff and melodic hook, but ultimately fails to reach the heights achieved by other tracks. This may be down to the fact the track is the only one to be sung in German, which to a non-German speaker like me isn't as memorable and doesn't flow as well as its English counterparts. Other songs such as "The Monsters Crawl" and "Eyes Of A Child" wander into forgettable territory, but are ultimately saved by their strong choruses and overall melody.

Axxis make use of operatic female vocals throughout the album. While I'm not a fan of this vocal style when it takes the lead, here it is mainly confined to the background and used to enhance the music and add more power to the overall mix, giving many of the songs a bombastic feel. Frontman Bernhard is in fine voice on the record and whilst his performance mainly sticks to the powerful, soaring end of the scale, songs like "Fathers' Eyes" show a more introspective side – for a while at least. At the end of the day, Axxis play fairly 'generic' power metal but have shown they have the song-writing chops to put themselves ahead of the Euro-metal pack. This is certainly not an album to convert those adverse to the genre, but is definitely recommended to those fond of power metal with personality. I wasn't originally going to score this album so highly, but as I've been singing most of the songs to myself over the last couple of weeks; and still have them stuck in my head now, I think it deserves an

8
.

Download: Utopia, Last Man On Earth, Underworld
For the fans of: Power Quest, Gamma Ray, Sabaton
Listen: Myspace

Release date: 28.08.09
AFM Records

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