When one thinks of that sweaty, mosh pit dance we refer to as thrash, often America's big four of Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax come to mind. The denim and leather crowd abroad may also interject Germany's big three of Kreator, Sodom and Destruction into the discussion. The thrash lineage is thick in those countries, US bands like Testament, Exodus and Overkill have sewn their roots in much the same fashion as Germans like Rage, Tankard and Holy Moses.
But what about those other areas where the thrash genre isn't as thriving?
"To be honest, we have never been this 'let's go to the beach and drink beer' kind of band, there's always the darker side"
Onslaught has bled for thirty years in the UK. For almost twenty-five years Channel Zero has represented Belgium. The same can be said for the quarter of a century output of Canada's Exciter. So, is it any surprise that an unturned stone in Finland hides a nearly decade-old secret?
No, not really.
Finnish thrashers Axegressor have practiced what they preach, exhibiting their brand of vigorous and punishing mosh-riffs with exuberance to any spectator. But is the audience there?
"In the dark and gloomy 90's there were maybe two thrash bands in Finland. Solitaire and another which no one can remember. But during the last seven to eight years many new bands have risen to play furious thrash or sonic speed metal. And even the one and only A.R.G. was summoned back from the dead, and I assure you they still kick fucking serious ass! But certainly thrash metal is and has been more an underground based style (in Finland), compared to the melodic metal bands which are widely known and accepted abroad", states Axegressor lead vocalist Johnny Nuclear Winter.
Axegressor, which formed in 2006, released their third album to date last month with "Last". The puissant rhythms and focused aggression presents more German influences than the band's previous albums "Command" (2009) and "Next" (2011), which both embody the ruction of California's Bay Area.
The band's guitarist, Seba Forma explains, "I concentrated pretty much just doing good heavy metal songs and they turned out to be more evil than usual (laughs). To be honest, we have never been this 'let's go to the beach and drink beer' kind of band, there's always the darker side. I have said many times that we are not re-inventing the wheel here, for me our songs are more like tribute to those bands with whom I have grown up and who have given me so much. But yeah, those German bands are some of my favorites and big sources of inspiration. We try to develop by each album, so I'm not sure what kind of songs are going to emerge after 'Last', but we are definitely on the right path anyway.
That proverbial path has led to the signing with world renowned label Listenable Records. The path wasn't easy, encompassing a departure from the band's four year home at Dethrone Music.
"At the end of 2012 we recorded a raw 'pre-production' demo for the seven new songs with the help of our friend at our rehearsal room. Personally, I thought we'd enter a studio before summer 2013 but things were not that easy. The songs kept changing, the arrangements were changed many times, and I had some problems to get me in the lyric writing mood. Because we had no deadline, no real goal to focus in. Prior to the pre-production sessions we had decided not to continue with Dethrone anymore, although everything had worked very smoothly with the label, but to be able to take a step further, we needed a label with wider distribution and better chances to get our music heard in the ears of a potential Axegressor fan", says Winter.
He elaborates further on the label decision:
"We recorded the whole album first, completed with mixing and mastering, and then offered the complete package to dozens of metal labels. We had the package ready even with the cover art, so Listenable knew pretty much exactly what they will get. We had another similar-sized label offering a same kind of deal also, and we had probably the most difficult decision to make in the history of this band."
"Last" is indeed the best of the Axegressor catalog thus far, each song brimming over with Teutonic thrash that was made famous by the likes of Kreator and Slayer and most recently perfected by bands such as Dew Scented and Havok. Unbolted staples like 'Command to Last' and '15' benefit from vituperating vocals, frenzied riffs and the modern production qualities that often propel the genre. Axegressor are a band that metal enthusiasts should and will be talking about in the years to come.
Seba offers, "I have a much better self-esteem to write songs compared to the 'Command' LP. I have a certain confidence when I grab my guitar that something's gonna pour out. Of course one can have millions of riffs, but the arrangement is pretty puzzling always, so you have to think those over and over again. As for the live shows, I am always pretty nervous and it seems I will never get rid of it. I usually warm up before the show about thirty to forty-five minutes, just to make sure that my fingers are warm enough (laughs). But I can guarantee that every time we go to the stage, we give 100 % and play as good as we can!"
Winter closes, "To make one thing clear: this is not intended to be our last album or the end of some trilogy whatsoever".
If Johnny Nuclear Winter has his way, "Last" is certainly not the least.