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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.