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Thrash with a twist of prog - 67%

Oss1, November 23rd, 2018

Axegressor have found a way to make generic thrash metal riffs interesting by adding bizarre sounding chords and awkward time signatures to their playing. There really are no typical thrash riffs in this album and everything seems to be inverted to suit their new found progrresive style. This style requires constant attention from the listener and that is the achilles heel of this album. This unorthodox style keeps your interest high but at the same time becomes a drain in a long timeline.

The biggest minus of the album is the real lack of headbangable riffs. Thrash metal is know for it's fist pumping, anthemic riffs, but none of those seem to be present here. I don't mind the style being progressive, but some more traditional thrash parts would have been welcome in the middle of all these odd time signatures. I think Axegressor was more concerned with making these riffs sound as progressive as possible than with the overall feel of the songs. That is shame as there is quality riffs found in nearly every song.

On the next album Axegressor should do a hybrid of this proggresive style and traditional thrash. There is potential in mixing both styles to an elegant beast of thrashy progressive metal..

All in all, there is quality material on this album and while it doesn't suffice for repeated listenens, it certainly is a refreshing listen here and there. The vocalist deserves and extra mention again for his quality shrieks.

Angry young men - 68%

gasmask_colostomy, August 17th, 2018

It’s not until 'Terminal Ignition' that Axegressor show their colours as anything other than four angry young men, and that might be the only instance of the Finnish group breaking from tradition. Even then, the shouts of Johnny Nuclear Winter (Tom Angelripper’s offspring?) show little relenting, while the added thought and nuance show only in the very heavy bass doodle of Aki Paulamäki, who is – according to the album’s press release – a member of one of “the heaviest rhythm sections in thrash metal”, a feature that the percussive lurches of that song give credit to. An acoustic opening to 'Human Travesty' and the exploratory instrumental section of 'Peace at Last (Armageddon)' aside, the crew tend to stick to their angry methods without much recourse to melodicism, though the solo in 'Barren Bloodline Worship' splits the song wide open like a sudden downpour during a summer heatwave.

The merits of such a determined thrashing approach should be clear to the genre’s staunch fans of speed, riffs, and savagery. Axegressor treat every song like your neighbour’s dog treats every new day with the postman – a chance to attack. The general feel is mid-paced pounding, though songs like 'Truth Prostitute' show that there is no harm done in transitioning between speed and steadier riffs to provide contrast and avoid monotony, as it may easily become a problem for Bannerless. However, even at the more gradual lick of 'Ever-Bending Spine', the music still has a particular belligerent and – let’s face it – ugly quality to its progress, as if the bursts of sudden attack exhibited elsewhere had eventuated in a prolonged bludgeoning at the end of a dark alley. If you’ve come to dislike Sodom for becoming too melodic, Axegressor might well have the fix for your troubles.

As hinted at earlier, the vocals provide a point of similarity to the Teutonic thrash legends, while the peculiar angle of ambush maintained throughout 'Terminal Ignition' could draw more comparisons to stranger German extreme groups like Sektor. There are straightforward mid-paced thrash riffs aplenty, that much is true, but those that diverge from the well-trodden path distance themselves from followers by some way. As such, one puzzles over how to fit Bannerless into the modern scene, there being few thrash metal bands that actually sound like this, not least in Finland. The implications of such a position form a twofold truth about the quartet: firstly, that Axegressor are distinctive, though not to say entirely unique; secondly, Axegressor stand to be called unpopular by virtue of ignoring trends to the extent of being unacceptable to enthusiasts of neo-thrash groups like Gama Bomb and Havok, however much 'Truth Prostitute' might endear them.

Just to prove it’s not all too serious, Bannerless saves 'Don’t Be an Asshole' to the end, unleashing a hard rocking shout-along with mildly contradictory lyrics (“Don’t turn the other cheek, be proud to be brave” could inspire some asshole-ish acts) to dispel the murk and grime of some of the earlier cuts. The album loosens up as it heads towards this destination, meaning that the toughness of the openers from 'In Safe Space No One Can Hear You Scream' to 'Terminal Ignition' begin releasing their flavours after several spins, while the hookier songs such as 'The Lethality of Mediocrity', 'Peace at Last', and 'Don’t Be an Asshole' may be enough to draw the listener back for another spin. A shift has definitely taken place since the group’s preceding album, Last, four years earlier, since there are fewer propulsive riffs and incitements to headbanging, though that also means Axegressor aren’t merely retreading old ground. If you want to keep up with them as they go off at a murderous tangent, Bannerless proves a very respectable listen.

Originally written for The Metal Observer -

Fantastic sound, good compositions - 76%

Felix 1666, May 11th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2018, CD, Brutal Records (digipak)

Over the span of three full-lengths, Axegressor have been a very reliable supplier of razor-sharp old school thrash and I admit that I had very high expectations with regard to their fourth album. Please keep this in mind when I say that "Bannerless" is marginally disappointing. Due to whatever reasons, the filthy Finns have slightly reduced the level of speed, aggression and fury. They still play thrash metal of the old way, but the sometimes crucial iota of insanity and brutality is partly missing. Maybe the guys just have reached an age that does not allow them anymore to bang their heads regardless of the consequences. But a guy who calls himself Johnny Nuclear Winter does not have the permission to get old and lame. Firstly, the pseudonym sounds like a promise to deliver his whole life nothing else but ferocious thrash. Secondly, nobody reaches an old age in a nuclear winter.

"Bannerless", the fourth one-word-title-album (two words are probably too expensive) of the Scandinavian ruffians, does not stand in the shadow of their other works as long as we are talking about the very impressive production. The heavyweight guitars prevail and they glitter with cruel clarity, pressure and sharpness, but they do not pulverize the contributions of the other instruments. The double bass, for example, is able to deliver a decent bombardment. Not to mention the pumping, pretty prominent bass or Johnny's vocals. This dude raises his voice whenever he likes to do so and his performance still reflects a rebellious attitude. Never hysterical, but always in a very angry and defiant mode, he screams the lyrics and it gets obvious, that the statements of the debut's title track ("we're not perfect / to play like the pro's / not classically educated / we're not one of those") are still valid. Yet this does not mean that Johnny sounds amateurish or monotonous. He spreads some energetic vibes and performs fervently. His mean aura ennobles tracks like the casually titled "Bridges to Cross and Burn".

"Barren Bloodline Worship" possesses some furious parts that catapult the song into the league of the classics of Axegressor's former records. "Truth Prostitute" is lively and fast right from the start. Its shredding and swirling guitars form a malicious thrash assault. This is the way that makes my day. But many mid-tempo parts speak another language. Axegressor often choose a comparatively gentle, nearly easy-going approach on this album. The crucial word is "comparatively". They still have a lot of energy, vigour and neckbreaking qualities, but I miss frenetic tracks like "Command" or "SS-18 Satan". So let's try another tactic and stop comparing this work with the previous results. Then I must acknowledge that "Bannerless" is an extremely strong produced album with more than a handful of formidable tracks. It remains a mystery to me why they have chosen a relatively uneventful track like the mid-paced "In Safe Space No One Can Hear You Scream" for the first position of the running order, but I admit that there exist more things between heaven and earth that I do not understand. Women, for example. However, I am at risk to digress. Get a copy of "Bannerless" and you will be able to judge for yourself.

Underrating all consequence. - 70%

GrizzlyButts, April 23rd, 2018
Written based on this version: 2018, CD, Brutal Records (digipak)

Born from the increasingly rare Finnish desire to straight up thrash in 2006 Axegressor‘s first EP ‘Axecution’ in 2007 was a raw high-speed thrasher not far from the Sodom-worship of groups like Witchburner or Nocturnal with a little bit of a Coroner style edge. By 2009 their first full-length a small regime change meant the riffs would pull back towards late 80’s Sodom almost exclusively. This was the defining release for Axegressor in the sense that they still work with ‘Coma of Souls’ and 90’s Sodom in their veins. I don’t want to box the group’s sound in too harshly, but I’ve found all of their releases a strong approximation of the German thrash approach in the late 80’s and early 90’s.

Criticized for being a bit sluggish on their first album, Axegressor kicked things up a few steps on ‘Next’ in 2011. Thrash metal guitar riffs are a tough and competitive business and at this point the band found a better balance of complexity and driving rhythm. One of their more popular tracks “SS-18 Satan” comes at the middle of ‘Next’ and for my taste it highlights the less ‘driven’ feeling of the bands sound at the time. A lot of thrash bands go for variety and others go for variation, I’d seen Axegressor at their best in sticking with variation considering their actual sound wasn’t original. Some of that would be remedied on the very different 2014 full-length ‘Last’ as they jumped onto a bigger label.

‘Last’ came in a year where the thrash output, much like 2018, was fairly thin and uninteresting with countless revivals from old dead bands. It was a very standard release from the band though the production was great and the growly guitar distortion had never sounded better. I’m all for sub-genre iteration and standard releases in metal, though there were very few important thrash releases from that year in general. What has changed in the four years since? Actually, ‘Bannerless’ is one of the most inspired and varied releases from Axegressor to date.

Still lead by a witching metal growl and teutonic structures their sound in 2018 is louder, heavier and faster as ‘Bannerless’ kicks off with a Stone-like riffer in the form of “In Safe Space No One Can Hear Your Scream’ hell, it even has a guitar solo or two. It seems the band is suddenly no longer asleep at the wheel and the hell-world closing in on us all has lit a fire within. “Ever-Bending Spine” couldn’t more perfectly return to their ‘Coma of Souls’-esque riffing of early Axegressor that feels tweaked into their own signature. I have to admit I’m pretty starved for pure thrash metal in 2018 and I don’t think I’ve gotten a better proof than ‘Bannerless’ yet outside of maybe Rapture or Chemicaust, and both of those are a bit more death/thrash.

I could easily go track by track for the first four songs here with big riffs and hooks that are worth returning to. If you’re familiar with the sort of Voivod-lite last Airdash album ‘Both Ends of Pain’ and can overlook some of it’s bad taste the riff style on that record sort of hits some of the same notes, though I’d throw in Destruction‘s ‘Release From Agony’ too. This shows most on “Igno-rant” and “Peace At Last (Armageddon)” but there are hints throughout. I think it emphasizes that ‘Bannerless’ isn’t just the sort of rote Teutonic thrashing I’d honestly expected after ‘Last’ and should definitely entertain folks who obsess over thrash guitar work. A notably inspired entry in Axegressor‘s discography and one of the better thrash records from the first half of 2018.