Sound — 7
Right, so like the previous reviewer, I advise you dispel from your mind that Matt Tuck is in this band. Yes, most of you hate Bullet For My Valentine, and that's cool, but this isn't Bullet. This is Axewound. Matt's initial statement on this was that it was "Metal as f--k" and "like the bastard child of Pantera and Slipknot." It isn't. It's a relatively solid metalcore/groove metal album with some good, some great, and some disappointing songs, not in any way a polarizing album that you will either love or hate. It simply is. I bought the CD, listened through, and put it into my album collection. The drumming is solid, the bass typical, the guitar seems to revert to open D every verse and then shift to some predictable chorus chords or the odd breakdown, all capped off with some fairly good lyrics presented by the great Liam Cormier and Matt Tuck. 01. "Vultures": I quite like this track. The riffs remain heavy throughout Cormier's furious "Death to traitors off with their heads" over an excellent staccato riff into a smooth melodic section, then a mighty respectable solo from Gates and back to top energy for the outro. 02. "Post-Apocalyptic Party": I didn't like this one at all, but it seems I'm alone. The pre-chorus frustrates me, the idea of a post-apocalyptic party did nothing for me, the awkward clean section feels like it kills the song, and the outro drags. Strip that away and you're left with a great song skeleton the verse riff is meaty and the chorus fine, but I didn't like it. 03. "Victim of the System": This is more metal. Political lyrics, some nice harmonized tremolo picking, some slick drumming, crazy backing vocals from Matt (not fanboy crazy, like borderline gutturals and a few black metal-esque shrieks), heavy riffs, Cormier keeps kicking ass, right up my street. 04. "Cold": This is a single, and it sounds it. It's not a bad song in any way just feels a little contrived at times and the chorus is dangerously close to a Bullet song. I personally really liked the song the verse seems to roll more smoothly than the rest of the album to this point, as does the prechorus. I even liked the off-kilter breakdown. Like I said, it's not a bad song, just the one they've opted to sand the edges off and polish a little. I liked it. 05. "Burn Alive": Again, this is more metal. The intro didn't really grab me, but the main body of the song is pretty kickass. I'm not a huge fan of the stop-start chorus and for the first time, I need to criticize Liam Cormier the guy's hardcore shout just doesn't fit over the very metal trem-picked post-chorus section, but this is quite a strong song. 06. "Exochrist": This is one of the strongest tracks off the album between Matt's anthemic chorus and Liam's vicious verses, the song just rolls from section to section. It's one of the more melodic tracks, but no less heavy for it. The "drag me to hell" bridge section manages to slip in and throw some nice atonal stuff without messing up the song's flow. Really nice. 07. "Collide": For me, this was the strongest song others hate it. It kicks off with some haunting piano, then some jagged guitar riffage with strings superimposed behind that for an enormous theatrical feel. Matt takes the verse, before Liam comes in on the next section and screams his lungs out. The chorus isn't vocally great, but the guitar manages to compensate for it. You also get a nice quite piano bridge into a heavy bridge section, then right back into the song. The drumming is quite cool too. 08. "Destroy": Yup, here's another metal track for you. This is the closest you're going to get to Pantera (aka not very) but that's okay. You get some pretty flowing metal riffs. Matt whispers a horrendously cheesy "now the time has come to kiss your a-s goodbye..." in the prechorus, but a nice harmonised bridge section compensates for it. The chorus is nothing too memorable. 09. "Blood Money and Lies": Pretty kicka-s song here it's basically a collection of metal-as-hell riffs, trade off screams between Matt and Liam, and a sludgy, gritty southern-sounding chorus that for the first time in the album, doesn't seem like a step back in intensity. This has a distinctly thrashy feel at points, and then into that really sludgy chorus. 10. "Church of Nothing": This starts off with some tasty drums, then some groovy bass, then some pseudo-sweepy riffage, then into the predictable open string verses, average chorus, nothing special, but nothing disappointing either. The breakdown is pretty slick too, as is the harmonized section that follows it. It is the only song to feature a solo from one of the band members it's not great, but a long way from terrible. We also get to see a brief barrage of double kicks in a few sections. Overall, the album is nothing outstanding, but nor is it terrible. The riffs feel somewhat generic despite the fact that there are no metalcore clichs, the instrumentalists rarely step outside themselves or push the boundaries, and the songwriting can be very formulaic, but at the same time some chorus lines pull you in, some breakdowns made me unconsciously head bang, and some full songs made me grin. There are some songs that I really liked upon first listen ("Collide," "Cold," "Exochrist") and others that grew on me ("Vultures," "Blood Money and Lies"), and others that I don't care for. It's not a must-have album, but the quintet have potential and I'm interested to see how it works now that they're a band rather than simply a vent for Matt Tuck's leftover riffs. On another note, the production of it is quite smooth they've managed to sound stripped-back and full at the same time, and I quite liked the album's sound and feel.
Lyrics — 8
In Axewound, I've found a somewhat average vocalist who I really like Liam Cormier, also of Cancer Bats. This guy has been criticised for not being "metal enough" for Axewound, and whilst I see the logic, I beg to differ. I think his hardcore-type yells fit the songs well, though at times, particularly in the long screams, his grit fades out, leaving him sounding strangled, but that's being super picky. He brings a level of raw fury to the album which elevate it far above its raw musical potential, and that I appreciate. He is very much a one-trick-pony, but I don't care he's all about a vehement, stripped-down hardcore yell that taps into your inner anger. Matt Tuck surprised me on this album I was expecting generic clean vocals dominating it, but he performs less than you might think, and branches out a lot. He grits up his singing for the "Blood Money and Lies" chorus, but for the rest of the singing, it is just tenor cleans. His screams though wow. It's nothing like Bullet he can do borderline gutturals and truly brutal mid/high screams that wouldn't sound odd in a black or death metal band, and he does, either in trade-offs or doubling Cormier. Lyrically I haven't really paid much attention, but Cormier's precise and clear yells mean that you pick up large sections on the first listen an added bonus of his distinctive scream. He's clearly mad about something the first track has him shouting "Death to traitors, off with their heads," "Cold" offers up "PAIN - my salvation, I'm not afraid so f--k you and your apathy, FEAR and frustration, you give me nothing, so take back all your sympathy. BREAK - this is carnage, destroying all my strength and all my dignity. SNAP goes your backbone, If you're addicted to pain then come and get some more," "Collide" "I want to feast on your spirit, I want to make you my slave." The lyrics are clear and based around religion, politics, and life in general. All angry. Nice.
Overall Impression — 7
In re-reading my review, I feel like I've been way too harsh on this album, and yet I disagree with nothing that I've written. This really is a solid album it has all the bits and pieces needed. The whole open-string-two-count-run-open-string verse pattern fits well with Cormier's rhythmic vocal delivery, the riffs are heavy, the choruses largely catchy, the drums well-crafted and energetic, and the vocals outstanding. I can't quite put my finger on what it is that I dislike about this album, but I guess it's mostly just a sense that it could have been done better it could have been in my top 10 albums of the year. Tracks like "Vultures," "Cold," "Collide" and "Exochrist" aside, I feel like we should have been presented with some shamelessly hardcore, thrash and groove-metal inspired songs with long chains of Lamb Of God style riffs thrown in with huge anthemic choruses, technical solos, thrash drums, hardcore-style staccato offbeat guitar sections and the occasional long melodic bridge God knows they're capable of it. Instead we got a smorgasbord of riffs thrown together in what seems like a logical order and that ticks all the "metal" boxes. I truly thought this was a good album it was just a long way from great. "Vultures" and "Exochrist" are brilliant songs and I absolutely advocate buying the album because most of it makes good listening to. Props go out to all the members for creating this album the songs were assembled and recorded in under two weeks, which perhaps accounts for why some of it felt contrived but overall I just couldn't help feeling that all the songs should have matched the likes of "Vultures" in quality. I must reiterate this is in no way a bad album. If I was to take my top 5 songs and put them on an EP, I would rate it much higher than I have here, but unfortunately the score has been lowered by what I feel are some disjointed songs, unmemorable choruses, and riffs that didn't live up to the metal potential. I have high hopes for this quintet and will watch with interest I want them to succeed, because they've shown in several tracks that they can.