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Axenstar - "The Inquisition" (CD)

Axenstar - "The Inquisition" CD cover image

"The Inquisition" track listing:

1. The Fallen One (3:53)
2. Under Black Wings (5:39)
3. Salvation (3:59)
4. Inside Your Mind (5:54)
5. Daydreamer (4:34)
6. Drifting (2:29)
7. The Burning (7:16)
8. Run Or Hide (5:07)

Reviewed by on February 17, 2009

"In the case of Axenstar, music quality actually increases with song length."

One of the complaints many people have with power metal is the length of the songs. In many cases, soaring guitar solos lead to tracks exceeding seven minutes, and an ever increasing sense of monotony. But in the case of Axenstar, music quality actually increases with song length. It’s almost as if the band needs a minimum of five minutes to work out the kinks and spread their wings.

The album cover and song titles for Axenstar’s “The Inquisition” may lead some to believe that it is a dark, gothic album brimming with religious animosity. The grayish black sky and the winged angel in flames atop a pyre are ominous, and yet the music enclosed is surprisingly light. This is due in large part to the vocal style of singer Magnus Winterwild. His mid-range and excessively mellow voice unfortunately don’t do justice to the album’s dark theme. Fortunately in a few cases, such as “Salvation,” backup vocals take on a great throaty approach, and thus add a very much needed dimension.

The instrumental side is typically intense power metal, with a motley combination of drums and soaring guitars, though at times the transitions in tempo are rough. “Under Black Wings” is a good example of how the drumbeat can be too fast for the sustained guitar chords, though in its defense, the double strum bass and scale climbing guitar in the breakdown are nice.

As with many European bands, Axenstar is particularly fond of keyboards. The overly-synthesized “Inside Your Mind” could be a solid epic track if the band wasn’t so synth happy, though the keyboards do blend well on “The Fallen One.” There is a touch of goth in “Daydreamer,” but again, vocals are too high for the otherwise solid power metal epic.

The one track that just doesn’t seem to fit is “Drifting,” which is both noticeably shorter and calmer than the rest of the album. It’s a slow ballad of harmonizing vocals and acoustic guitar, and drums are completely absent in the song. It creates a nice interlude, and yet it just doesn’t quite work with the style or theme of the album.

What do work are the final two tracks, “The Burning,” and “Run or Hide.” At more than seven minutes, “The Burning” affords Axenstar the chance to smooth out transitions, display a pipe organ sounding keyboard, and show off a wailing guitar that isn’t present on other tracks. This one has a good upbeat power tempo and vocals are a little edgier as well, bringing the level of the song up to par with other popular bands in the genre. “The Burning” is hands down the best track, though “Run Or Hide,” with its anthemic melody, is almost good enough to make you forget the less than stellar journey traveled through the album. It’s a good choice for a closing song, and along with “The Burning,” provides proof that Axenstar does have potential in the power metal realm. Look for this band’s music to improve with time, as the talent is there, just waiting for some guidance.

Highs: "The Burning" is a well organized and solid power track.

Lows: Vocals are too high and mellow.

Bottom line: This album is an okay example of power metal, but look for later Axenstar albums to be significantly better.

Rated 3 out of 5 skulls
3 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)