Released: 2012, MRI
Twenty-four years after their debut release, Lillian Axe has just put out its 11th album, complete with the usual lineup changes. Regrettably, Lillian Axe had the misfortune of being lumped into the hair metal genre early in their career and have never really quite shed that perception amongst the larger metal world. However, the band never really fit that box, and the new album continues to illustrate that no specific category describes Lillian Axe’s sound.
For THE DAYS BEFORE TOMORROW enters new singer Brian Jones, who replaces Ronnie Munro who filled in for tour dates after 2010’s DEEP RED SHADOWS. Stylistically, the band is still led by guitar maestro Steve Blaze, who continues to pen high minded and classy tunes infused with sophisticated arrangements. Blaze announces on the band’s home web site, “This is the best record I have ever written for Lillian Axe.” That kind of hyperbole is so characteristic of almost every band’s newest album that is expected and rings hollow. Even though THE DAYS BEFORE TOMORROW is a fine album, as are most Lillian Axe releases, it is not their finest album (that would be LOVE AND WAR or PSYCHOSCHIZEPHRENIA for me).
The new album’s music reflects the varied guitar styles employed by Blaze, ranging from traces of Queen and Zeppelin to Saigon Kick. “Babylon” kicks the album off and is expectedly one of the heavier tunes on the album with a fairly complex opening riff and a heavy verse stomp. “Gather Up The Snow” is quintessential Lillian Axe, with a harmonized opening guitar lick, before a chunky verse while new vox man Jones is up to the task, admirably executing Blaze’s musical vision. On the whole, the album is not much of a departure from the last 3 albums, other than it lacks an entire side two of acoustic songs like DEEP RED SHADOWS had. The band tends to gravitate towards the serious side of music, with ample mixes of progressive passages, multi-tracked vocals and varying levels of orchestration. The lone exception is the silly chorus for “Caged In”, where Jackson refers to himself as a “caged in manimal”, which immediately conjured visions of some comic book hero and not a guy in a song. Blaze is on top of his game though, as the solo in “Take The Bullet” shows, while the music throughout the album leans towards the dark and gloomy, reflective of the depressing lyrical material.
Lillian Axe remains a criminally overlooked band, sharing much with King’s X (Ty Tabor mastered this album by the way) in terms of sophistication and lack of appreciation. Not surprisingly, THE DAYS BEFORE TOMORROW is not likely to expand the core fan base. Consider the new record a well-written and lovingly executed album that sits in the middle of the pack of the Lillian Axe catalog in terms of quality. The band has just never recaptured the energy and excitement of LOVE AND WAR, PSYCHOSCHIZOPHRENIA and much of POETIC JUSTICE. I think that this is because the band has ceased to write fun songs, and while no one expects them to re-write those albums with every new release, a bouncy and uplifting tune would be welcome to balance the somber seriousness of the last three albums and now this one. Still, this is high quality stuff and devoted fans of the band should seek it out.