Swedish power metal veterans Axenstar are back and, I have to say after hearing End of all Hope, their seventh full-length opus, they’re in something nearing career-best form.
It’s a relief to be able to relate this, I can tell you, as I’ve felt the band have been on a bit of a steady downward curve since they released The Inquisition in 2005. They are a band who are never less than solid, yet I’ve just felt them running out of steam and ideas on the last few albums, especially the last release from them, 2014’s Where Dreams Are Forgotten. The Inquisition was coincidentally the last album they recorded for Arise Records, and since then the band has released albums on a variety of different labels – maybe their arrival at a new home at the Ram It Down imprint was a harbinger of a change in fortune!
Whatever, the band are sounding hard, heavy and in fine fettle on tracks like Honor and Victory. Pounding double bass fuels most of the songs – new drummer Hampus Fasth is surely given every offer to showcase his skills throughout – but it’s not just heads down mayhem I can assure you. Soaring melodies abound, and the superbly melodic smarts of guitarists Joakim Jonsson and Jens Klovegård never fail to take already superb tracks to the next level.
Moment In Time is possibly the standout track, if only because the band take their feet off the throttle to deliver something a little different, in the process producing a superb, classy take on prog metal that’ll have fans of names like Wolverine doing a double take before grinning approvingly and immersing themselves in the gorgeous arrangement.
Magnus Winterwild makes all the right moves behind the microphone, never pushing himself too hard but always delivering, and his keyboard embellishments are always on point, meaning that, as noted, this is probably the most complete-sounding release from Axenstar for some little while. Fans of power metal in it’s purest style are gonna love End of All Hope, that’s for sure!
End of all Hope will be released on April 26th.