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Axxis’ twelfth studio effort begins with a spooky intro track, setting the scene with some creepy heartbeats and a with few electronic noises thrown in. Some impressive keyboard work darkens the mood further, going from minimalist and straying into the full on atmospheric gothic domain, complimented well with some dark and brooding chanting. As it breaks into the title track I was instantly reminded of Gamma Ray with vocalist Bernhard Weiß’s high pitched, often quite nasal, German accented heavy metal screams. Whilst not being the best of the bunch this really sets the scene for the rest of the album; lots of energy, lots of cheesy keyboards with dark overtones and a generous helping of intricate guitar solos. The whole album is littered with annoyingly catchy choruses and this track is no exception. The atmospheric intro to next track ‘The Last Man on Earth’ highlights my main issue with this album, the keyboards. Whilst well placed throughout the songs the keyboards sound horribly cheap. It often sounds like keyboardist Harry Oellers is trying to replicate the sound of an orchestra and fails, making it sound oddly electronic and flat whilst other times it works perfectly. However both the vocals and instrumental sections are neatly catchy and make it one of the best songs on the album. Interestingly track 4 ‘Fass Mich An’ is the band’s first German sung song which surprises me considering their extensive back catalogue, however the song never really stands out. Perhaps my favourite song on the album comes next, another heavy high energy track named ‘Sarah Wanna Die’. It never seems to calm down but also doesn’t risk becoming annoying and over complicated. The real highlight of the song comes halfway through with guitarist Marco Wriedt’s very fluid yet swift solo before the song continues with even more weight behind it. The obligatory Power Metal ballad follows in the form of ‘Father’s Eyes’ which is a nice break, replacing the cheesy mayhem with cheesy rock with which gig-goers wouldn’t be out of place to hold up a lighter or two at a live show. The album remains consistent in both style and quality throughout and the next few tracks demonstrate this, although good they all become somewhat formulaic with only ‘Eyes of a Child’ standing out, whilst sticking to the same pattern its vocal melodies and main riff are especially catchy. A good thing to note is that despite the music remaining consistent in style the lyrics approach many different subjects which is a nice thing to hear. ‘Underworld’ is a great end to the album as a great piece of heavy metal; it’s fun, frantic and powerful despite its slightly tedious opening. Whilst having its faults as being a horribly cheesy album I can see the appeal of this to hardened Power Metal fans and whilst the keyboards mar the overall sound they’re played with enjoyable virtuosity. If you’re looking for a good guitar album you wouldn’t go far wrong here but at the same time there’s nothing original here.
AFM Records
Review by Nicholas Dishington
1st Sept 2009
1) Journey to Utopia
2) Utopia
3) Last Man on Earth
4) Fass Mich An
5) Sarah Wanna Die
6) Fathers' Eyes
7) The Monsters Crawl
8) Eyes of a Child
9) Heavy Rain
10) For You I Will Die
11) Underworld
"... I can see the appeal of this to hardened Power Metal fans and whilst the keyboards mar the overall sound they’re played with enjoyable virtuosity."