Register Forgot login?

© 2002-2019
Encyclopaedia Metallum

Best viewed
without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
or higher.

Privacy Policy

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.