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One for the prog nuts - 72%

Andromeda_Unchained, February 25th, 2011

Ansur are quite the peculiar band and one I've spun quite a lot over the last month or so. This was their debut album from 2006, and the band were quite young at the time which makes it notable as to how quality the musicianship is. I hear Ansur get classed as extreme progressive metal, and for once I'd actually agree with the notion as there is no other way to classify this.

It is noticeable on Axiom that their sound was rooted in the black metal of their country, however this has been progressed so far that only a few nuances in the guitar work and vocals remind of the style. I have to say Ansur are one of the more original bands I've heard in recent times, making it difficult to draw any major comparisons to other bands. They utilize a few neat tricks over the course of the album, one of which – whilst having been done before – is the use of clean channel guitar over distortion, a lot of the time following the main riffs which is pleasing to the ears and fortunately doesn't castrate the sound.

The musicianship is of a very high caliber on Axiom, although I will warn you that they do have a tendency to plunge into extended instrumental sections, which they hadn't quite mastered the art of on this album (all that would change on the follow up). The vocals aren't great but work well enough with the music, the style being that of a half-rasp smothered under a muffling effect, although that description does sound worse than it actually is.

This album won't be to everyone's taste, and I would imagine Ansur are catering to quite a small audience. Even though the majority of the songs are quite long and can go on a bit in places, each one is packed with a load of excellent riffs that are quite inventive for the most part. This is certainly an album for the prog nuts, and if you persist with it I can assure that you will be rewarded. Tracks such as the short and snappy "Earth Erasure" and "Desert Messiah" get my recommendation, the latter of which I would suggest checking out as it's the best example of the general sound on Axiom. Those uninterested by the prog genre can safely avoid this one, however.

Originally written for

A good effort, but not quite there. - 65%

Dirant, February 19th, 2008

Ansur – Axiom

Sometimes a record comes along that has potential, but somehow on account of too many small details which could have been improved upon fails to go that extra mile. «Axiom» displays a young band with sufficient technical abilities and a fondness for the progressive. The effort is there, the good intent, the mandatory odd time signatures, and the whole nine yards, but I can't sit down and enjoy this album although I really wish I could.

The riffing style is varied, and sounds like a mixture of mid-tempo death and thrash riffs of the more progressive kind, leaning towards being melodic but not quite. The riffs have no trace of aggression in them, which is okay as the overall theme has nothing to do with anger. They utilise a lot of unusual chords, which in theory serves them well in building the unique sound and atmosphere needed for a concept album with an alien post-apocalyptic theme. I say “in theory” because I can hear potential in it, but not realisation, I sort of wish for a more desolate and empty staring feeling than is actually achieved.

There is some subtle use of synthesizers which in this rare case actually helps the atmosphere quite a lot, usually stuff like that serves as a mean of sounding like totally pretentious douche bags. This is best shown in “Interloper” when he says “Are we meant to solve this code, or...” where the music turns more eclectic in respect to the lyrics than elsewhere on the album.

Mostly throughout the album the singer uses the kind of effect where it sounds like he has recorded it through a telephone or something like that. So the vocals are really dull sounding, and it works sometimes, other times you wish it would be more varied. The vocals act sort of like a narrator for the story, describing what's going on. I won't go into details here, but the whole concept and the lyrics are interesting, mostly as a backdrop for the music. I guess they're going for a sort of larger than life feel to the whole thing, music and lyrics, not quite getting there but receiving points for the effort.

The lead guitar is technically brilliant, but not always becoming. Sometimes it sounds like the stuff ultimate hero guitarists play between the lessons in instructional DVD's. The lead guitarist is obviously a skilled guitar player, but could play more aptly.

The album was recorded at the guitarist's home studio, so in one way it's not fair to mention the production as a draw back, but on the other hand this isn't the special Olympics either. Every instrument is audible, and the sound is much cleaner than you would expect, but somehow it feels like the sound is muffled and not really shining through. If it hadn't been for the lead guitar sound I'd half expect that the microphones were placed in the room next to the instruments. It feels like you can hear the silence behind the music, and that never serves a good production. I can crank it up all I want it still doesn't sound loud. Think about “Left Hand Path” and imagine the complete opposite.

I've listened to it over and over again, hoping it would suddenly hit me but
as you might have guessed, I have no strong disdain for this album, nor do I feel it hits the sweet spot. But I think they're close, and I have high hopes for the next one. However, at the moment there are too many small things that annoy me or bother me. If you're not on a tight budget and want to check out something a bit out of the ordinary, I suggest you buy this album. Most of the things I dont't like is a matter of personal taste, and I can really picture someone loving this album.