Air Raid - Night of the axe 4/5
2. Night of the axe
3. The lost city
4. Highway legion
5. Dying man
6. Raiders of hell
7. Call of the warlock
9. Riding out
10. A blade in the dark
The cynics say that the classic/traditional metal revival of the last few years is just a fad, perpetuated by unimaginative musicians who have nothing to contribute creatively, so they steal shamelessly from the 80s. I say I don’t care. The newer classic metal bands may not be breaking new ground, but many of them are recapturing the sound, spirit, emotion, and majesty of old-fashioned glorious heavy metal. Let’s face it, the original standard-bearers for this style of music (i.e., Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Saxon, Accept, Manowar) are not getting any younger, and Dio is no longer with us. Who will carry the torch? These younger bands rally around the flag, champion the cause, and ensure that the fate of our beloved genre will be in good hands for decades to come. For whatever reason, Sweden is a hotbed of talent in this New Wave of Classic Metal, offering up the likes of Steelwing, Enforcer, and Katana (amidst a strand of darker, similarly retro fare like In Solitude, RAM, Portrait and so on).
You can add another name to that list of accomplished new Swedish true heavy metal bands: Air Raid. The Swedish quintet already made a splash early last year with their impressive ‘Danger ahead’ EP released on Stormspell Records. Well, danger has arrived, my friends, because Air Raid have now unleashed their full-length debut CD, ‘Night of the axe’, through Stormspell. Sporting one of the creepiest/coolest Dimitar Nikolov cover artworks ever (guy safely parachutes from an airplane crash under a full moon, only to be met by a savage, hooded figure wielding a bloody axe), ‘Night of the axe’ delivers the goods at an extremely high level of quality throughout its compact 40-minute running time. Impressively, Air Raid prove to be a versatile act, adept at high-speed galloping tunes such as “Night of the axe” or “Riding out”, slower somber numbers like “Dying man”, or epic Maidenesque glory in the form of closer “A blade in the dark.” That last song provides a nice bit of conceptual symmetry to the proceedings too. Think about it: If this is the night of the axe, then there certainly ought to be a blade in the dark.
A new feature on ‘Night of the axe’ is that all band members other than vocalist Michalis Rinakakis have adopted stage names (the EP credits listed them all by normal-sounding names) such as Johnny Nightshredder and Andy Stormchild. Love it! If you’re going for this kind of old-school style, you might as well embrace the campy elements of it too. Hell, wear baby-blue spandex or Japanese rising sun t-shirts on stage if you want to. That’s not to say that Air Raid’s music is campy or tongue-in-cheek. Far from it. ‘Night of the axe’ is chock-full of lovingly crafted, superbly executed traditional heavy metal songs that establish Air Raid as a serious force to be reckoned with in the New Wave of Classic Metal. An important part of that equation is vocalist Rinakakis, whose distinctive voice sounds to me like a cross between Grave Digger’s Chris Boltendahl and Sanctuary’s Warrel Dane, with perhaps a touch of young Eric A.K. (Flotsam and Jetsam). He can soar when necessary, but he also has enough grit and power to give the songs some weight and gravitas.
Look, I could write about Air Raid all day long, but the takeaway message is very simple. If glorious 80s style traditional heavy metal is your thing, then ‘Night of the axe’ (and the ‘Danger ahead’ EP, for that matter) should be mandatory listening. Stormspell Records is perhaps best known for its high-quality reissues of musty, ultra-obscure demo collections. By signing contemporary, active bands like Rocka Rollas, Air Raid, and Sacred Guardian, Stormspell proves to be equally skilled at shining a light on unheralded, worthy acts of today. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go listen to “A blade in the dark” again, which is surely in the running for my favorite song of 2013.
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