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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Lillian Axe

Waters Rising

Review by Gary Hill

I have to admit, I’ve never heard Lillian Axe before. There were so many metal bands coming out in the 1980’s and most of them were bad, that I sort of ignored a lot of them. Mind you, I heard the name, but I must admit I thought it was silly (although, I found out in my interview in this issue the origins and now I love it). Of course, I also thought Metallica was a pretty silly name, too. Well, now that I’ve heard this band, I really want to hear more. The first half of the album is pretty typical melodic metal, but also quite strong. The second half, though, is what really sets these guys apart. I suppose the closest analogy would be Kings X, but even then, it’s only so accurate. These guys throw in elements from all over the musical spectrum (many times in the course of one song) to create a soundscape that is all their own. It leans quite heavily into the prog metal (and even progressive rock) territory. It’s a bit hard to define, but that’s a good thing. One thing is certain; these guys are unique, extremely talented and very cool. Waters Rising may be my first exposure to the sound of Lillian Axe, but you can bet it won’t be the last.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Waters Rising
The title track leads things off with a rather bluesy semi-acoustic intro. They jump out from there into a chugging riff and this just plain rocks out. It’s killer old school metal with melodic vocals. The chorus is catchy as hell! What a great way to lead things off!
Antarctica
This one is heavier than the opener. Points of the track (just a riff here and there) have a definite Black Sabbath feel to them. While the opener was strong, this one manages to exceed it.
Become a Monster
The sounds that start this are just plain mean. They launch it out from there with a killer riffing that’s got such an incredibly meaty sound to it. This is rubbery and more modern in texture, without wandering into nu-metal territory. The vocals are more raw and aggressive than those on the first two cuts. It’s not only a great change of pace, but a killer song. They include a cool drop back to a more mellow section that has horror movie characteristics.
Quarantine
This one moves back to a more melodic mode and when they drop it back to the after-chorus it’s a really bluesy groove. This cut has some funk in it and reminds me a bit of Living Colour.
I Have to Die, Goodbye
Acoustic guitar leads the festivities off in a major piece of variety. As the percussion joins it feels like you stepped into 1969. They put in a very melodic and pretty ballad sound here that even leans towards prog rock. They build this ever so gradually. When the spoken vocal segment enters, it reminds me a bit of the more acoustic Queensryche sound. They throw in a cool Captain Beyond like, fusion oriented progression after that. At around the four minute mark, this one is almost seven minutes in length, they move into sort of a 1970’s classic rock motif. This gives way to the CB sounding segment. This never moves out into the metal arena, but instead serves as a great change of pace from the first half of the disc and a testament to the band’s versatility.
Fear of Time
Lillian Axe are back into the grinding metal here. They keep that variety going here with a few intriguing melodic twists on the arrangement and progression. This one has a great vocal arrangement, too. We also get a more neo-classical European metal jam later in the track.
Until The End of the World
The acoustic guitar is back on this ballad that is more traditional in some ways than “I Have to Die, Goodbye.” The opening verse reminds me a bit of Triumph. The chorus, though, has a more melodic ‘80’s metal sound – not the “hair metal” variety, though. They crunch it out a bit more after this segment. They turn in a short movement that has a great, nearly progressive rock element to it. These guys really know how to cover all the bases and this is one of the most dynamic and diverse songs, giving real evidence of this talent.
Fields of Yesterday
Strings lead this off in a very classical music fashion. This gives way, after a time, to a balladic approach. A metal texture takes over mid-song for a time, making this basically a powered up anthemic metal ballad. They turn it out to a cool, psychedelic, nearly prog section later that’s almost Beatles-like. The vocal arrangement on this one really stands out.
Thirst
They move it back into a European epic metal vein on this cool rocker. The vocal arrangement here is a bit unusual and you might think a bit of Kings X on the number.
The 2nd of May
Here we get another song that’s kind of all over the board. This one runs the gamut from near prog to serious metal, melodic tones and crunch merging in a killer jam. There’s one riff in here that really reminds me of early Rush. This also reminds me a lot Kings X. The talent of this band is always amazing.
Deep in the Black
Take an approach like the last track and plug it into a Pink Floyd motif and you’ve got the early moments of this cut. As they power this out it more closely resembles an epic meets progressive metal sound. This mini epic (8 and a half minutes) just keeps changing and growing. It’s an incredibly diverse jam that’s arguably the best track on the disc. I really like it a lot.
5
This instrumental is a chugging power house that’s full of some killer guitar soloing. It runs all over the metal spectrum and is a great way to end a smoking disc.
 
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