"The Inquisition" (Arise Records; 2005)

Reviewed by Snidermann

I try to avoid putting music into categories (i.e., progressive metal, metalcore etc.) but there are two categories that I am very familiar with: music I like and music I do not like. 

As I began listening to Axenstar's "The Inquisition" I almost immediately thought I was hearing something very special. By the end of the recording I knew it. 

"The Inquisition" is powerful and well-written and the chemistry of the band is apparent with each and every note played. The first cut is entitled "The Fallen One" and just a little over 38 minutes later, the CD came to a close and I let out a satisfied sigh and spin it again. 

"The Inquisition" features excellent guitar and keyboard work throughout with vocals, drums and bass combining to create a fantastic overall package.

I recommend "The Inquisition" to any metal fan, especially those with a taste for power metal. This CD has done this much for me: Now I have to go out and find the band's other releases.

Axenstar: Magnus Winterwild - vocals and keyboards; Peter "Peppe" Johansson - guitar; Pontus Jansson - drums; Thomas Eriksson - guitar and background vocals; Magnus Ek - bass. 

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"Far From Heaven" (Arise Records; 2003)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

In early 2004, I realize I might not be on as much of a power metal kick as I was in late 2002 when I first heard Axenstar's debut "Perpetual Twilight." "Perpetual Twilight" was a pleasant, although not spectacular, surprise - if there was one in during my circa-2002 listening experiences.

The band's follow-up, "Far From Heaven," much like its predecessor, contains catchy power metal that displays a willingness to break free of the genre's limiting conventions. The songs on "Far From Heaven" are more concise and hard-hitting without losing any of the character the band displayed on "Perpetual Twilight." "Children Forlorn" is a perfect example of Axenstar's foray into a power-rock/power-metal hybrid that I was expecting more of in this release. "Blackout" is another track that melds the speed of power metal with the overall badness of a more straight-forward rocking sound. Additionally, the vocal performances are more varied on "Far From Heaven" with the track "Don't Hide Your Eyes" being a particularly good example of Magnus Winterwild's expanded vocal approach. Winterwild does a solid job using the mid-range vocal approach to deliver melodies and power in equal balance.

My initial impression is that "Far From Heaven" sounds closer to Helloween than Nocturnal Rites and successive listens haven't deterred me from that original opinion. Again, I find myself stating that "Far From Heaven" is not groundbreaking; nor is it meant to be. However, "Far From Heaven" evolves the Axenstar sound enough to make you realize that the band isn't likely to stick to the same tried and true formula with each successive outing.

"Far From Heaven" was produced by Pelle Saether and Axenstar.

Axenstar: Magnus Winterwild on vocals and keyboards, Thomas Eriksson on lead and rhythm guitar, Peppe Johansson on rhythm and lead guitar, Magnus Ek on bass, and Pontus Jansson on drums.

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"Perpetual Twilight" (Arise Records; 2002)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

I've been on huge power metal kick lately; my recent purchases of a substantial portion of Helloween's back catalog can attest to that. So it was nice to get Axenstar's "Perpetual Twilight" to review for Rough Edge. Knowing that Axenstar was a power metal band gave me a lot of incentive to listen to this disc above all others under my care and responsibility.

My initial impression of "Perpetual Twilight" was that it was similar to Nocturnal Rites' "The Sacred Talisman." After a quick review spin of the latter disc I realized I wasn't too far off the mark with my first impression. Axenstar lay melodies on their speedy power metal vibe thick and pure. The band's sound is upfront and center by balancing guitars, bass, keyboards, and drums without overwhelming each other. The mid-range vocals fit comfortably in Axenstar's approach. The vocals are quite catchy and that's obvious from the first listen.

Five of the nine tracks break the five-minute barrier; this requires, of course, strong material with interesting bridges, memorable choruses, and 'storytelling' solos. Axenstar provide all that, and a little bit more, with a flair for the dramatic. Nothing ground-breaking, mind you, but nothing sloppy, stale, and tired either.

While most of the tracks are standard power metal a few tracks break the mold so to speak. "Scars" leaves power metal behind for a more straight ahead power rock sound that isn't too far from what Sentenced is capable of - besides, the song is catchy as hell. The epic title track gives the band the opportunity to flex all their musical muscles. While power metal can get a bit tiring due to the limitations of the genre's traditional song structures, Axenstar show promise by varying the tunes' styles and lengths and flexing their creative prowess. It's becoming harder and harder for power metal bands to distinguish themselves from their comrades in the genre, but I believe Axenstar has the potential to break free of the genre's narrow style.

The best thing I can say about "Perpetual Twlight" is that it did not require multiple listens to appreciate. I've been a little hard to impress lately, but Axenstar have managed to impress me enough to put "Perpetual Twilight" into regular rotation.

Three of the album's songs appeared on a demo the band released in 2001.

Fans of early Nocturnal Rites, Helloween, Gamma Ray, Onward, Sonata Artica, and Tad Morose will like Axenstar.

"Perpetual Twilight" was recorded and engineered by P-O Saether and Lasse Linden. "Perpetual Twlight" is pretty slick, but not too slick to be overwhelming. The legendary Travis Smith did the artwork.

Axenstar is Magnus Eriksson on lead vocals and keyboards, Thomas Eriksson on lead guitar, Peppe Johansson on guitar, Magnus Ek on bass and backing vocals, and Pontus Jansson on drums.

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Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.

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Copyright 2005 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 07 Aug 2023 21:18:42 -0400.