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Axeman > Arrive > Reviews
Axeman - Arrive

Brief look at world of Aztec ritual and sacrifice - 80%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, April 18th, 2013

Axeman is a solo black / death metal project of Volahn, a musician active in the Black Twilight Circle network of bands and musicians based in California. To date, Axeman has released one demo "Arrive" on cassette tape: at 20 minutes in length, this is a snapshot of an exotic world of Aztec and other pre-Columbian customs and rituals associated with war and sacrifice as described in black / death / metal with ambient and psychedelic influences.

There are just three songs with the longest song "Metnal" taking up just slightly more than half the length of the entire release. There is a beautiful and serenely atmospheric acoustic guitar solo that leads into a slightly sinister synthesiser melody reminiscent of a horror movie soundtrack from about 40 years ago. So much for the brief introduction - we're suddenly plunged into a chaotic world of galloping death metal rhythms, squealy lead guitar tones, grinding rhythm guitar riffs and lizard vocals. The atmosphere of the song feels very sick and delirious. Lyrics appear to describe the soul's journey after death through nine ordeals to Mictlan, the Aztec equivalent of Hades or Sheol. Much of the song, especially in its middle, is background to the lyrics and the full terror and glory are unleashed in the last three minutes when hysterical lead guitar takes over on a wild rampage through the skies. The rest of the music gallops on beneath. There are some marvellous bubbly space ambient effects embellishing the juddering lead guitar and the entire song turns out to be a wild horror psychedelic blackened death metal beast.

Pretty much the rest of the tape is a footnote to "Metnal" but the songs do have their charms. "Attestor of Doom and Rebirth" is a short but crazy whirlwind rollercoaster through howling siren guitar, grinding rhythms, crashing cymbals and constant subterranean growls. Lead guitar solos soar high and fall just as quickly and steeply. The whole thing sounds as if Volahn is fighting with demons in his head and body over who's going to play all the instruments all at once. "Kosmic Death" is a steadier track with steely and more dependable mid-paced (relatively speaking, compared to the other tracks here) blackened death metal piece that refers to an Aztec ritual in which kings and priests pricked their most sensitive body parts to draw blood and offer it to the gods. The song transforms into a more deranged being as our man Volahn identifies with those who sacrifice themselves to the gods of war and experiences a spiritual communion with them.

I wish this tape were longer and surely the two short tracks could have done with a longer playing time, with more improvisation and a definite sinister atmosphere. For wild and insane music combining the best of blackened death metal with space ambient effects and an ambience of Sixties psychedelia in which magic mushrooms mixed with cactus juice are the preferred drink of the day, this little tape is hard to beat. Axeman has hit on a perfect formula of high-pitched melodic guitar, pummelling death metal rhythms and chainsaw-wheezing black metal guitar in the background, topped with appropriately serpentine guttural vocals. The lyrics strike just about the right balance of sketchy Aztec mythology (which requires the listener to have a fair bit of foreknowledge of Aztec rites) and personal transformation in body and soul, connecting the listener with those mysterious gods who bring life to humans but demand a great price in return.

I think Axeman might become the sort of really intense musical and lyrical project that will demand much from its helmsman in energy and dedication, and it might be to Volahn's advantage to bring in additional musicians and perhaps another song-writer to keep Axeman going.