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A nice dash of melodic energy - 79%

GOOFAM, September 18th, 2017

Many of the reviews of this band here on the Metal Archives have knocked them for having a lot of hard rock elements to their sound. And it’s true—if you are the sort of person who thinks Night Ranger, Whitesnake, and Scorpions have combined to write a total of zero good songs, because they just aren’t heavy enough, you can skip over Axxis’ discography, or at least certainly their early years.

For those of you still with me, the operative question is not whether this band is heavy enough, but whether they execute their borderline hard rock/metal style well. And the answer, even from the outset of their career here in 1989, is generally yes.

Kingdom of the Night is certainly a product of its time. It’s not an out-and-out late-‘80s glam metal album, mostly because the band retains a slight European sensibility and the lyrical material, while still somewhat silly, avoids glam clichés more often than it indulges them. Still, this is presented as a pretty commercial slab of hard rock, with the expected reverbed vocals and giant, thudding snare drum—all of the typical staples of the time.

The two primary strengths of Kingdom of the Night are the general enthusiasm of the band and a good grasp of melody. Paces are generally uptempo here, and even the two ballads get some heaviness injected and avoid tiresome “More Than Words” territory. The band doesn’t try anything remotely progressive, generally staying within their means and trading variation for increased quality control.

As this music is pretty hook-driven, the nice thing about this album is that the hooks don’t fall flat, and every song here is generally fun and at least moderately enjoyable. The quality perhaps takes a slight dip on the back half of the disc, but even then, the songs stay enthusiastic even when they aren’t particularly memorable.

This album does have a few flaws that keep it a bit short of essential for the genre. First, the production isn’t perfect, even for those (like me) who generally enjoy late-‘80s production conventions. Bernhard Weiß’ vocals are often a bit low in the mix, the snare is often too loud, and the guitar tones are a bit subpar—basically, the standard sort of flaws you expect in a second-rate production job from this time period. Make no mistake, it's not a lo-fi album by any means, but it's just a bit short of a full realization of this sort of sound. Weiß tends to bite off a bit more than he can chew vocally, singing choruses at the very top of his chest range, which sometimes makes them sound strained and robs them of power. Walter Pitsch’s solos are fine and tuneful interludes, but aren’t particularly compelling on their own, and don’t add any real sort of virtuostic element. The drums are suitably, even overly, boomy, but as you’d expect in the genre, they do little beyond keeping a powerful beat and throwing in a reasonable fill here and there; bass is quite audible but rarely of much consequence beyond rounding out the sound.

As this is a consistent album rather than one of peaks and valleys, there aren’t a ton of overt highlights. The best song here for my taste is ballad “Tears of the Trees,” which features a great chorus and a nice building arrangement. Beyond that, the first five songs generally deliver a bit more consistently than the rest, though the last two minutes of “The Moon” really get cooking.

Kingdom of the Night is the rare album of this sort that actually functions best as a whole--because the energy and tunefulness are consistently there, it’s easy to let this album coast by for its 40-minute runtime and enjoy it. It’s not deep or exceptionally lasting, but it’s a generally well-executed album. In a long career that continues to this day, this band had many additional chances to go further, polish, and experiment more, but they played to their strengths here and wound up with a highly listenable debut. Energetic party/background music isn’t exactly the highest of artistic aspirations, but countless artists tried this sound out at the time, and a fair number fell short of these guys.

Saccharine hard rock meets fluffy ballads - 20%

kluseba, December 18th, 2016
Written based on this version: 1989, CD, EMI

When Axxis released ''Kingdom of the Night II'' in 2014, an overly enthusiastic press text described the band as national legends and the new release as a glorious return to one of Germany's most important rock albums until today. This inspired me to check out this absolutely groundbreaking and historical masterpiece that is supposedly on one level with household names like Scorpions, Helloween and Gamma Ray.

Those guys who wrote this press release were either tripping on weed or are delusional megalomaniacs. Axxis' ''Kingdom of the Night'' is, even by the standards established back in the days, a second rate hard rock album that is best compared to groups like Bonfire. It doesn't feature any unique elements to stick out in any way and already sounded dated back then. The record offers a mixture of hard rock tracks with melodic guitar play, standard high-pitched vocals somewhere between Klaus Meine and Michael Kiske and overtly present keyboards recalling Scorpions' commercial efforts released years before this output. This release also features an unhealthy number of ballads or power ballads. It almost feels as if every second track were a smooth slow-paced ballad. The songs are short and focus on saccharine choruses as if the band were aiming for commercial success and massive radio play rather than musical integrity. The terribly soft production without any edges only adds to this impression. The worst thing about this release are the almost inaudible bass guitar and the terribly powerless drum work. The drummer either had a broken foot, was extremely sleepy during the recording sessions or simply had a lack of motivation. I can't explain his lackluster performance otherwise.

If you are a nostalgic fool and like a mixture of saccharine hard rock tunes copied from Scorpions and the likes and fluffy ballads for elderly people and rock discotheques in the key of Bonfire, then you might find this lame record focused on repetitive choruses remotely interesting. Let's be honest though and admit that the press text about this record and its follow-up is a lie. There is nothing legendary about this album or the band for that matter. This album is as exchangeable as it gets. My generous rating is based upon the undeniably catchy flower metal chorus of ''Living in a World'' and the slightly more rhythmic closer ''Kings Made of Steel'' that rather reminds me of a rockabilly track than of a true metal anthem as the title might suggest.