1. The Descending (Intro) 2. Infernal Angel 3. Blind Leading The Blind 4. Don´t Hide Your Eyes 5. Far From Heaven 6. Abandoned 7. Children Forlorn 8. Death Denied 9. Blackout 10. Northen Sky
Did Hammerfall put out a new album? Nope, that is Axenstar and this is the 2003 release entitled "Far From Heaven". This marks the band's second album on Arise Records, The first being "Perpetual Twilight." After hearing the first album, I expected big things from the follow up, and for the most part I got them.
Axenstar went back to a studio that they were familiar with, Studio Underground. There they acquired the services of Peter In de Betou who is known for his work with acts like Hypocrisy and Amon Amarth and began recording. Formed by Magnus Ek (Bass and Backing Vocals) and Peter Johansson (Rhythm and Lead Guitar), the band formerly know as "Powerage", (joined then by Mr.Eddie on vocals and Johan Burman (Chemical Co-operation) and Magnus Söderman (Lost Souls), later replaced by today's lineup of Thomas Eriksson - Lead and Rhythm Guitar, Backing vocals, Magnus Eriksson - Vocals and Keyboards, Pontus Jansson - Drummer) signed with Arise in 2002, and have enjoyed success since then even landing a song on "The Keepers of Jericho" entitled "Twilight of the Gods," and now 2 albums under their belt.
Lyrically, this has to be, in my opinion, one of the best written and well versed concept albums that I have heard this year. This is what I feel is missing from a lot of today's metal--skilled writing as well as superb musicianship and great concepts or story lines. The concept, I believe, is a tale of an angel who falls from grace. Coming into her own mortality, she is transformed by the pain of the world thus becoming an angel of death who is unable to show any compassion.
10 songs, 9 of which were incredible. The boys from Sweden found what they were looking for, except for a unique sound. I am sorry, influences are one thing, but using a sound that is already prominent is another. Hammerfall is an excellent band (one of my favorites), but that is why Hammerfall makes records, so their sound can be heard. Four songs have a sound that can become their signature sound. Abandoned - This is the type of song that sounds better when kicking your neighbors teeth in. The louder it is the better it is.
Opening with maybe the most glorious keyboard/guitar solo of all time, Axenstar found their groove on this track. It leaves you wanting more, which they give you, 3 more times.
Children Forlorn - Not as well written as Abandoned (I guess I am biased since Abandoned is my favorite on the album.), but certainly heavier and faster. Speedy riffs and drumming that with leave you with your jaw dropped to the floor.
Blackout - The speedy guitar work reminds me of something bands like Iced Earth, Steel Prophet and Morbid Angel could do, and very well I might add. Don't get fooled, I said like what they can do. This, on the other hand is true, kick ass, Axenstar sound.
Northern Sky - This track is very soft. I, for one, love a great ballad and this is definitely one. The softness fits the story but it never picks up, not even a little. Just my opinion but I do not know if I would want that soft of a sound as a finale. Or maybe they wanted it that way, so the next chapter in the saga is sure to start off with a bang. Good thinking guys.
I did say 9 of 10 tracks, the other being "Far From Heaven," let's just say it's writing my 3 year old might bring home and post on the refrigerator. It is a valuable part of the story and for that, it stays. But if I had to delete one track from this album, that would be it.
The first half of this album has a strong Hammerfall sound to it, mostly from the "Legacy Of Kings" album. As a metal fan and a fan of the band, I feel I am obligated to say that Axenstar would do better to be a little less derivative Hammerfall However, I will say, if you want to hear some good melodic power metal, this is a must own. If you loved Legacy Of Kings, like I do, then there is even more reason to grab this one.
Out of 10, I give it a 7. It is an extremely well rounded album and a non-regretable purchase (to anyone), but I can't seem to shake the Hammerfall sound. Overall, not too shabby. It may have to grow on you but it is worth it. You'll see!
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