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Axenstar - End of All Hope Award winner

Axenstar
End of All Hope
by Rachel Montgomery at 05 June 2019, 10:32 PM

AXENSTAR are veterans in the world of Power Metal. Releasing their first album in 2002, this Swedish band are contemporaries of bands such as BLIND GUARDIAN, SONATA ARCTICA, and DRAGONLAND. It’s no wonder that their latest album, “End of all Hope” is a nostalgic, wonderfully produced masterpiece. However, there’s a caveat. The quality in the vocals and instrumentation can be uneven, and while the album is great as a whole, if it dips from perfection, it’s noticeable.

Their first track is a soaring melody with high-tuned guitars and operatic vocals. The song is channeling the same spirit as their contemporaries and I’ll admit I felt nostalgic listening to these songs. Their second track isn’t much different. The vocals are lower in tone, but it carries on the same tropes as most European Power Metal bands. While the songs are similar, they’re both great, with amazing production, instrumentation, etc.

The third track changes up the riff noticeably, as well as the song structure. I enjoy the heavier bass and beat, as well as the melodic changes in the guitar solo. While the first two songs were solid, this one is a standout, as was the fourth track, “Honor and Victory.” I could see this song being a fun one to hear in the pit at a concert.

The slower song, “A Moment in Time,” is on of their more interesting songs due to the difference in pacing. However, it’s only OK for a slow song and in places, the singer’s inflection seems off. However, despite the flaws, the production is perfect. The instruments are incredibly clear, the vocals are in the front without drowning out the rest of the instrumentation, and the result is a clear, rich sound.

“My Kingdom Come,” however, takes a bit of a dip. The guitars are muddy and not well-articulated in the verses. although they soar in the chorus, the muddiness of the guitars brings the production quality down from the last track. The other thing I noted was that the kick drums are noticeable and well-placed, a staple in the genre.

“The Dark Age” sounds a lot like the first three songs. However, it showcases the Magnus Winterwild’s ability since there’s less production on his voice more. The snare has some punch and the short bass solo before the first verse is a unique addition to the song. I also enjoyed the intervals in the melody in the second verse. All in all, this is one of my favorite songs off the album.

“Mistress of Agony” carries on the excellent vocal quality in the last song, and I loved the melody in the chorus. The echo of the backing vocals was beautiful and here, there’s very little effects on the vocals, especially in the second verse. In other tracks, Winterwild's voice is edited, creates unique sounds and echoes, but here, it’s crisp, clear, and wonderful without those.

The last two tracks are great, but compared to the rest of the album, nothing to write home about. “Time is No Healer” has a heavy introduction, but dips back into the band’s usual style. The vocals are OK, but after hearing the last two songs, they weren’t as good. The final track has a good chorus and a climbing guitar solo that builds in power throughout. They’re great songs, they just don’t pop out at me through the rest of the tracks.

Personally, I love this style. However, I have to admit that there’s not much that’s new about it. What makes it stand out is the excellent production quality and high caliber of the instrumentation. The only reason I noticed the flaws in the music was that when it was good, it was really good and that affected my opinion when it was only good. Overall, it’s still a great album that’s earned its high praise.

Songwriting: 8
Originality: 8
Memorability: 9
Production: 10
 

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Legions
2. King Of Fools
3. The Unholy
4. Honor And Victory
5. A Moment In Time
6. My Kingdom Come
7. The Dark Age
8. Mistress Of Agony
9. Time Is No Healer
10. Of Pain And Misery
Lineup:
Magnus Winterwild – Vocals / Bass
Joakim Jonsson - Guitar
Jens Klovegård - Guitar
Hampus Fasth - Drums
Record Label: Ram It Down Records
     


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