German AXXIS have been a love-hate affair for most of the Metal scene ever since their inception all the way back in 1988, with their at times fairly generous use of keyboards and most of all the unique voice of Bernhard Weiss, who also is the last remaining founding member. Over the course of the years they adjusted their sound a little here and there, leaning a bit more towards Melodic Metal here, a bit more towards Power Metal there, but overall they have stayed true to their roots since the beginning and thus continue to split the listeners without much grey zone in-between.
“Utopia” already is their twelfth album and they steadfastly continue down the path they chose a few albums ago, so progression is not exactly the band’s biggest forte, but for that they once more prove their hand for immensely catchy tunes and melodies and also nice dynamics and drive that will ensure that AXXIS fans will love “Utopia”, while whoever damned them in the past will continue to wholeheartedly despise what they sound like, so all is good in AXXIS land, I would say. After a bombastic intro the title track is upbeat, with the trademark vocals and catchy chorus, followed by the even catchier and driving “Last Man On Earth”, setting the Germans off to a very good and engaging start, after which, though, the momentum comes to a sudden, screeching halt in form of “Fass Mich An”.
On the previous album “Doom Of Destiny” the band had already tried their hand on a song with German lyrics as bonus track, “Engel Aus Hass”, this time around it is in fourth position and this is a classic example of shooting yourself in the foot. Not that I have a problem with German lyrics, there are enough bands out there that are doing a good job, but here the problems lie way deeper, because the female choir sounds very squeaky, the songwriting is mediocre and it’s just an overall drop-off in quality. Thankfully that is rectified with the oddly titled “Sarah Wanna Die”, which brings back the good drive and intensity of before, the spacey keyboard effects are not really my cup of tea, but they are not a major nuisance after all.
“The Monsters Crawl” do introduce something new in the AXXIS sound and that is a light growl underlying in the chorus, which is quite a surprise and fits quite well into the once more very catchy and almost simplistic song, just like “Eyes Of A Child” is an excellent ballad and to close things off the band has another good double-bass breaker in the barrel, titled “Underworld” and just with an annoying keyboard solo to mar the experience it still is a worthy kick in the rear at the end of the album.
Overall “Utopia” is definitely a fine piece of melodic steel, with “Fass Mich An” being the only real dud on the album, so please don’t stop listening after the fourth song, because if you either already liked the band in the past or are in the mood for some Melodic Metal bordering on Power Metal, then AXXIS’ latest is a good pick-up, as mentioned before, if you didn’t like them in the past already, you can definitely give up on them, no matter how you look at them.
(Online April 21, 2010)