It’s been a long time since I’ve been excited by a debut album as much as I am with this effort by Axis Of. The three-piece from Northern Ireland display so much variety in tone and pace for a band who seem largely, and admirably, allergic to anything except their drums, bass and guitar.
In songs like Aung, you’re hit with a long grungey instrumental which all of a sudden decides to change tact and heads off into hardcore. This ability to keep the listener guessing is a feature throughout the album and it’s captivating. The outro to ‘Brobdingnagian’ (no idea, sorry) comes out of nowhere – with the song seemingly done, the band take a second to breathe before embarking on a huge metal riff.
The album highlight, ‘We Dine On Seeds’ has this ability to surprise in buckets. The song bounds in like a big muddy German Sheppard with a nice mix of group vocals and increasing fury from main singer, Niall. Then the song dips and as you’re expecting the anger to reappear, the quiet refrain just continues, so when the distortion does eventually re-enter the fray you’re left pathetically grateful.
Opening song, ‘Cardiel’, doesn’t disappoint either. The first sounds on the album wouldn’t sound out of place on an indie pop song, but after about 10 seconds it all gets serious and wonderfully aggressive. As if The Strokes started playing but then you stamped on their toe, stole their lunch money and ran off with their girl. It all gets a bit angry, and stays that way.
For three guys, the wall of sound they offer is fantastic, and if it can be replicated live then they’re onto a winner because their song-writing is varied and inventive enough to inspire a crowd for hours.
Lead single, ‘Lifehammer’, is the perfect introduction to the band and also a clever album closer. It demonstrates all the bands strengths, a huge chorus, that Irish twang to the vocals, some seamless tempo changes, and the unexpected (spoiler alert) where what appears to be the finale is followed by some more renditions of the chorus and even a neat little guitar solo.
As debut albums go, this is packed full of bright ideas, a really good consistent heavy sound, but also the ability to give a fresh take on hardcore and heavy rock. It rarely lets up in intensity and leaves you trying to work out where the last half an hour went, but with a pretty good idea of how you’re going to spend the next 30 minutes too.