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This release has some rather annoying production elements which damages the overall presentation. The guitar tone is a bit overly digital and lacking breadth of tone, the drums are overly thumping and tend to dominate most of the sonic spectrum, and as a whole the mixing seems kind of haphazard and reduces the blasting sections to a pile of noise, which is unfortunate because Axis Of Advance's tremolo riffs are some of the best in this sort of chaotic black/death style. It's pretty strange considering the fantastically clear but not overproduced style of albums like 'Strike', and I think 'Obey' suffers as a result of it, almost as though the band was trying to artificially increase the brutality of their music beyond what was necessary.
Once you get past the production, though, the band is nearly as strong as they are on their seminal debut. Axis Of Advance has a fairly unique style, taking the base elements of Conqueror and making them a bit more mature and less prone to random chaos. There's still chaos, but now it has a bit more purpose behind it, with narrative songs articulated through neatly arranged riffs and harrowing song structures. The band did sort of shoot its load on their first album; 'Strike' is probably never going to be topped by the band in either conceptual or musical dimensions, and it probably resides in my top twenty or so albums of all time, but 'Obey' is a pretty good attempt to bring back some of the drama that was lacking from slightly mediocre middle work 'The List'.
The big secret of Axis Of Advance is that they're really a funeral doom band at heart. Their noted Thergothon cover probably raised more than a few eyebrows when it emerged, but it's really just the most obvious nod to the style of music which greatly influences the band's overall sound. Most of the epic, melodic riffs that are Axis Of Advance's main unique element are really just Thergothon and Skepticism style riffs given speed and density via tremolo and blast beats; they might sound rawer but melodically they're the same. The clearest example of the band that Axis Of Advance really wants to be is on 'Cube Of Odium', easily the album's best track and a crushing paean to Thergothon; tell me any of the riffs wouldn't belong with just the slightest drop in tempo on 'Stream From The Heavens'. The band just inserts the basic idea into a new frame of reference, and though not entirely original, it is an extremely memorable and intensely heavy track.
The fast stuff is good too, of course, and this is where Axis Of Advance is generally a little more 'normal'. The opening track with its squeaky, atonal riff doesn't get things off to a spectacular start and it seems to be the band playing against their strengths, but give them a little time to work out their most ferocious impulses and you're back to a fair mimicry of the elements which made 'Strike' so stirring: the song structures which manage to take a scenic route without ever meandering too far from their main thread, the excellent, bordering on barbaric instrumental performances, and, of course, the majestic riffs which tie it all together. The band does of course indulge their Revenge tendencies a little bit more than they did on the first album, but not quite to the extent of the middle work, which will probably please those who found 'Strike' for some reason effete and lacking blast beats and screams.
This is not the band's best work, but it is still better than a good 95% of other metal out there simply because it's so well developed. It doesn't feel like it's trying to prove anything to the listener and is pretty aware of its own qualities, so it doesn't need to experiment excessively or try to better itself where it's not needed. It's just an excellent album that succeeds on its own terms, without making concessions to anyone.
This is, in my opinion, AoA's finest release to date. So, what have we here? First of all, you can leave behind any hope for brutal "progressive" breaks that we encountered while listening to the brilliant "The List".
This is really, really brutal. In "Obey", AoA's sound is clearly close to Revenge's (the band where session AoA member James Read smashes the drumkit), but with ten times the inspiration and without the continuous relentless (uninspired?) blasting. One could say that "Obey" is the band's most mature sound, lyrically and musically.
The concept behind this release is a bleak, nightmarish future where the human race is totally enslaved to an all-seeing eye which cruelly exploits them and uses them only for production. Leaving aside the metaphorical aspect of this story, I would say that the music perfectly suites the lyrics.
Again, we have this obvious brutality of fast machinegun drumming, wall-of-sound guitarwork and both hi-pitched and growling vocals. But do not be mistaken; this is definitely NOT another ultra-violent release. This is special. AoA do not hesitate to add mid-tempo parts in their furious songs, and that separates the band from others that exist solely to pound the drums in unthinkable (computerized most of the times) speed.
You may need to listen to it several times in order to fully comprehend it, but you won't regret it, especially if you are in need of something both brutal and intelligent. From the overwhelming "Of one to conflict it" to the stupendous "Wrath Pounding", "Obey" gives you The only reason why the rating isn't 100%, is that I strongly believe that Axis of Advance definitely have the potential to release an even greater album.
Before you start listening to this, forget Belphegor. Forget modern Behemoth. Forget Uncreation's Dawn. Forget any such blackened death metal acts. In fact, forget anything you've ever known about this genre, excluding such bands as Revenge or Arkhon Infaustus, of course. Why? Because (as much as I may enjoy Belphegor) this Edmonton band is far more skilled and interesting than anything that a band like Behemoth have and will ever put out.
This is Axis of Advance's (AoA) third full-length to date, contains eight tracks and clocks in at thirty-seven minutes. This Canadian band could be classified under the almost non-existent war metal genre, which is essentially brutal black metal with death metal overtones and lyrics dealing with, of course, war. Every track in Obey is fast-paced and completely relentless. The song structure is very complex; it's becomes immediately clear that the band members know exactly what they're doing. The riffs are very reminiscent of what can be found in releases of bands such as Revenge or Conqueror, only with more variation than the other two bands have demonstrated; Occasionally, Wor breaks out into a solo, which is as tasteful as it is unexpected (most of the time). J.Read's drumming needs no introduction; the man is an extremely competent drummer, and can switch from a gravity blast into something completely different within the blink of an eye. The vocals are mostly low or mid pitched; dual vocal work is prevalent within the whole album, which adds to the overall atmosphere of command that the music evokes.
This whole album, from guitars to drumming to vocals to lyrics, is very militaristic in nature; this, of course, means that Axis of Advance have succeeded in putting out a successful war metal album. If you are a fan of such bands as Arkhon Infaustus or Revenge, this album is a definite must for you. Standout tracks include God-Eye Command and Of One To Conflict It.
War-genius as their previous releases. Tight, complex yet ‘catchy’ enough to keep you involved and listening more. I find it their most listenable release without implying that this band is ‘easy listening’, perhaps it is a little bit more accessible then their “Strike” release as well as other work. I can go on a record to say this is the best Axis of Advance release yet because I think it has the most elements, there are many things going on which you will not notice until the 3rd or 4th spin – if then. This is NOT black metal, death metal or grind or any other genre you may want to place them in. This is metal. Extracted brutality from many sources to create the ultimate Axis of Advance album.
An aggressive release with many changes, from tempo to quite insane riff changes. It is always aggressive and brutal but on this release AOA took a step forward and added even more chaos into the puzzle. It is not pointless brutality, there is structure here and order is to be found but not for those who are only into music to tap a leg. I feel there is more variety on this release then on any other they have released, it is really a range and I hope this band keeps moving forward with this while maintaining its originality and integrity.
AOA keeps getting better, more intense while maintaining their sound. An album that is definitely recommended to start or to simply have. It has to be played loud, the power of the music just begs for it to be played loud. If you liked their previous work then you should love this, if you are knew to this band it is quite hard to describe the music besides the fact that this isn’t some ‘pass phase’ aggressive metal. This band is angry and complex and there are reasons for it.
The lyrics like on their previous albums are about issues of: sci-fi, human aggression, society and war among other things. As usual the lyrics are like little codes and if you are the kind to like to analyze them and question writing and meaning to begin with, this release will be a field day for you!
Stand out tracks: Revolution Decimation, God-Eye Command, and Cube of Odium
Now if only they decided to finally come and play Toronto – and if they do, not play for Inertia but for real metal!
Total war metal onslaught. Four words that describe exactly what Axis of Advance's previous album, The List, was about. I'm not sure whether it was just a change of pace for Wör and Vermin or whether James Read had more influence on that album but with their new album, Obey, Axis of Advance have turned to more dynamic songwriting once again. That is not to say that this album isn't filled with raging war metal, but as opposed to The List and more akin with Strike, it isn't full speed slaughter all of the time. The changes in instrument patterns and song structures are very overt on Obey which makes it very different from Strike where the changes were very subtle. Sometimes even so subtle that even if you listened for them, you didn't catch all of them all of the time. On Obey you cannot help but notice the changes, they are so emphasized. One moment the band can be blasting their way through a concrete wall and next they slow down for a doomy part and then yet another moment and they may warp back into a blastbeat. And yes, the doom-influence is back after being mostly absent from The List. It doesn't dominate the album in anyway but it is most certainly there.
The obvious shifts from one part of the song to another is the very thing that makes all of the songs on Obey stand on their own feet. On Strike, the songs were clearly woven into each other and you felt awkward listening to a single song without the rest of them backing up or following afterwards. The songs on Obey don't suffer from this but neither do they form such a cohesive whole as Strike did. I don't recognize the songs on Strike that well but I do recognize the songs on Obey almost instantly upon hearing and I've given the former way more listens. This is also because the songs are very streamlined. They are well honed, distinctive wholes with nothing extra in them. This differentiates Obey very much from everything that Vermin and Wör have done before.
This time around the album was produced in Sweden and you can definitely hear that. Obey sounds much slicker than on previous Axis of Advance albums though it is not in the level of Abyss or Fredman-glossiness. There's even a hint of Sunlight in the guitar. The production is a bit blurry but all of the instruments are easily discerned even though the drums are very much in the forefront. I think the clearer sound deducts from the album somewhat. It makes the music sound more controlled which in itself isn't a bad thing but this kind of metal suffocates from that kind of control. Granted this album probably wouldn't have worked as well with a rawer production but due to its organic and more superfluous aspects I do rate Strike higher than this album. Even though its predecessor puts it to shame, Obey is masterful work and very much worth looking into.
There comes a time in my metal listening week where I crave something a little more ‘filthy’ in sound. A lot of modern metal acts are incredibly spot-on with their musicianship and production values – check out the tightness of the latest ‘Lamb of God’ and ‘ Caliban’ – all props to them. However, as much as I love listening to these bands I always find it refreshing to immerse myself in a sound that is ‘less-processed’ (for want of a better description). Old school Black Metal often does the trick – and for this week at least, so does Canada’s ‘Axis of Advance’.
I make no assumptions that everyone reading this has heard of AoA. Those who do know them already own this album. For me, AoA are the replacement for the legendary and now defunct death metal act, Angel Corpse. Now, AoA are nowhere near the mighty AC in terms of pulling off their signature ‘whirlwind’ style pacing, but as far as emanating their gloomy, foreboding malevolence, AoA are in the same league. AoA also play a different kind of extreme metal – more like raw black/thrash (some call it ‘War Metal’) than death metal per se, but the overall feeling is the same – dark and uncompromising.
‘Obey’ is the follow up to 2002’s ‘The List’. Personally, the new one doesn’t sound a whole lot different, but I can’t deny the intent. This is raw, fast and highly chaotic black/thrash – its sole purpose is to tear you a new arsehole and destroy the human race. It may not achieve the latter (which is probably its main objective looking at the press release propaganda) but it’ll make a fair impression on the former. The production is simply perfect for this kind of hectic extremity. The riffs are ugly, the solos demented, the bass thick and booming in the bottom of the mix. Holding the whole project together is the highly dynamic drumming of James Read (also of Conqueror and Revenge) and the ‘Pete Helmkamp (Angel Corpse)’-like vocals of their frontman (who’s name I have no access to).
Fans of harsh extreme Black/Death/thrash/War metal will appreciate the sonic fury that AoA have dealt out on ‘Obey’. There are some slower moments where AoA attempt to explore a doomier, foreboding atmosphere however, for the most part (and particularly because of Read’s influence) this is 95% flat-stick mayhemic destruction. Lyrically, I can’t really comment as none were supplied – but with a title like ‘Obey’ and song titles such as ‘Revolution Decimation’ and ‘Wrath Pounding’ there is enough evidence to suggest that this album is heavily ‘human race’ oriented - Survival or Extinction?? I know where I’m laying my money.
Axis of Advance are not the greatest act to come out of Canada, but it’s important to realize that there are others acts besides ‘Voi Vod, Kataklysm and Devin Townsend’ making their mark. As far as the extreme underground community is concerned, Axis of Advance will cause quite a stir. Recorded in Malmö, Sweden at Berno Studio with Henrik Larsson at the helm, fans of old Angel Corpse will rejoice at the belligerent anarchy captured on ‘Obey’ - Violent, harsh and unforgiving.