"Axemaster/The Awakening" (Unisound Recordings)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

Joe Sims has found some success as part of two bands over the last fifteen years fronting Axemaster and The Awakening in his journey to metal nirvana. This recording is a 'greatest hits' of sorts that displays Sims' progression from the mid-'80s to the mid-'90s. The songs are arranged in three groups; early-period Axemaster, late-era Axemaster, and The Awakening. 

The first six tracks are taken from Axemaster's 1987 release "Blessings In The Skies." The tunes here are reminiscent of Headbanger's Ball-era metal (minus the pretty boy rock, of course) that recalls the likes of Saxon and Judas Priest with Samhain-styled vocals. A few of the tracks have an overall sound that recalls some of Randy Rhoads' tone (especially on the track "Crusades"). Clearly Joe Sims' talent outshines his other bandmates on these six tunes. 

The next four tracks are taken from Axemaster's 1991 independent release "5 Demons" and showcases the band's evolving sound by adding a little post-thrash Metallica and a bit of ominous doom to the mix. 

The last four tracks are taken from The Awakening's "Invictus" CD.  These four tracks display an even greater emphasis on overall mood and better songwriting to boot. "As The Wind Blows," "Flowers For The Dead," and "Farewell To A Friend" are great tracks that are worthy of airplay and great exposure. Sims' lead work on these four tracks show a serious nod to his influences of Criss Oliva and Dave Chastain. 

Joe Sims' guitar work is solid throughout. I'm impressed that Sims was able to evolve with the times yet never seem like he was copying current trends. It is interesting to get a glimpse into Sims' developing signature sound by listening to the sequence of the tracks on the 'best of' disc. 

The production on the material recorded circa 1985 is average, but consistent for the times this material was recorded. The second set of material, recorded circa 1991, is only slightly better in the production department. However, the third set of material from 1995 has much better production and is hopefully more indicative of what Sims' future work will sound like in terms of style and sound. 

I, for one, am very much interested in hearing more from Joe Sims' new project called Dream Or Nightmare which promises to combine the best of the '80s, '90s, and progressive elements with a classical feel. No doubt, Sims' nearly two decades of guitar experience will make this a highly anticipated release. 

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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 2000 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 05 Sep 2023 21:55:32 -0400.