Axevyper - s/t 4/5
1. Revenge of the axe
2. Rats in the walls
4. Immortal steel
7. Bad Italian boys
8. Faster than the law
9. Forever young
10. Non e’finita qui
Ah, true metal. For sure, the genre has been the target of considerable ridicule from certain quarters of the heavy metal community over the years. But for a graying 80s metal warrior who lived through the blighted wasteland of the 90s, there is no style that tugs at the heartstrings or inspires fits of exuberant headbanging and triumphant air-guitar mayhem quite the way that true metal does. Axevyper are a relatively new Italian 5-piece formed in 2009 from the ashes of Assedium (who released a pair of worthy platters on My Graveyard Records a few years ago), and they play unadulterated, unapologetic true metal, with lyrics about avenging metal warriors, killing posers, wielding axes and so on.
This debut CD’s cover art is a hilarious, albeit clumsily rendered, drawing of an axe-bearing reptile (lemme guess, the Axevyper?) perched atop a pile of dead posers clad in t-shirts bearing logos such as Nirvana, Limp Bizkit and Korn, but also the likes of Dark Tranquillity, Metallica, Sonata Arctica, and Dimmu Borgir. The art on the back of the booklet continues the theme by depicting our 5 heroes quite literally flying the flag of Italian heavy metal (yep, an Italian flag emblazoned with the words “Heavy Metal!”) in a graveyard festooned with headstones for Nu Metal, Pop Punk, Grunge, Melodic Death Metal, and a freshly dug plot reserved for Metal Core. From the booklet photos, the band members look the part too, with one guitarist decked out in red and white striped spandex, the bassist in zebra-print spandex, the singer wearing a rising-sun bandanna and a Medieval Steel t-shirt under his studded denim jacket, and the drummer clad in an Exciter t-shirt (the guy also thanks his 2 goldfish, whose names are “Dan” and “Beehler”, hah!). Suffice it to say there should be no mistaking what kind of music awaits when the CD is popped into the player.
What is a surprise is just how well executed this stuff is. Axevyper perfectly channel the glory and might of such 80s U.S. metal titans as Manilla Road, old Manowar and Omen, but also German acts like Brainfever, Atlain, Running Wild and Sacred Steel. Honestly, this stuff isn’t too far removed from what Crystal Viper are doing these days, although Axevyper are certainly less polished and rougher than their Polish counterparts. One catchy 80s metal riff follows after another, with gang-sung choruses, uptempo rhythms (albeit not traversing into the realm of speed metal), gleeful guitar-hero solo parts, and semi-screamed vocals recalling a more controlled Bob Mitchell (Attacker) combined with Mark Shelton (Manilla Road). I mean, I defy you not to grin and spontaneously rock out when songs like “Revenge of the axe”, “Poserkiller”, “Faster than the law”, and the early Maidenish “Axevyper” come blasting out of the speakers.
Perhaps Axevyper’s biggest coup, however, was injecting 2 stupendous guest vocal spots into the middle section of the CD. Track 4, “Immortal steel”, is sung entirely by U.S. vocalist extraordinaire George Call (ASKA, ex-Omen), whose characteristically impassioned performance makes this top-notch, pounding mid-paced tune about the Arthurian legend sound like a long-lost Omen song or maybe even an outtake from Aska’s classic ‘Avenger’ CD. And track 5, “Roadster”, features the instantly-recognizable nasal and gruff lead vocals of Tann (Ironsword). Honestly, “Roadster” sounds like a better-produced version of the kind of speedy, raw, ascendant material found on the last couple of Ironsword CDs. Awesome. And the lyrics of “Roadster” are basically a find-a-word of Manilla Road song titles and texts, so the whole thing comes across as an homage to those cult mystical sorcerers from Kansas.
I could keep going with a track-by-track breakdown, but honestly there would be no point. If you’re one of those who likes to snicker at and denigrate true metal using adjectives like “tr00” and “cheesy”, then just move along. I’m quite certain Axevyper do not want your support. To paraphrase Stormwarrior, if it’s not in thy bloode, thou wilt never understande. But if Omen’s ‘Battle cry’, Manilla Road’s ‘Crystal logic’ or Manowar’s ‘Hail to England’ still quicken your pulse after all these years, then you’d be a fool to pass ‘Axevyper’ up. These lads have made a powerful statement for what true metal can and should be in the 2nd decade of the 21st century. Sure, they’re not inventing anything new, but Axevyper are keeping the flame burning as brightly as ever. Hail!
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