Released: 2006, Sentinel Steel
Earlier this month I had noticed that somehow in our history we had not reviewed any albums by Gothic Knights. Mortified by this oversight I reviewed their whole catalogue. As I was working through that process it occurred to me I wanted to share my thoughts with our readership on the brand new Axehammer album as well. There has always been a parallel (in my mind anyway) between to the two bands. Again, I discovered we had no Axehammer CD reviews in our database. What an oversight! It’s almost like the phantom that haunts the Metal-Rules crypt is slowly removing album reviews because I could have sworn we had a couple of Axehammer reviews (and Gothic Knights) reviews in our database. No matter, I can fix that! So much like the Gothic Knights feature we are proud to bring you three reviews of Axehammer, LORD OF THE REALM (1998), WINDRIDER (2006) and the newest 2012 album, MARCHING ON.
Three quarters of the original line-up return almost two decades later for their first proper, full-length debut WINDRIDER. The most immediate and noticeable factor in the bands sound is, aside from the modernization, is the relatively restraint vocal delivery of Bill Ramp. That is not to suggest it is poor by any means but he plays it much more straight this time, fewer voices, fewer deviations, less narration and so forth.
Sentinel Steel Records gets the call again for WINDRIDER and they recruit famed producer Bill Metoyer (W.A.S.P, Slayer, Fates Warning) for the production. The album cover features their mascot the ‘Axehammer’ a giant metal robot wielding, you guessed it, an axe in one hand and a hammer in the other, a true killing machine! He looks pretty bad-ass and would take out pretty much every other metal mascot. The label always does a good job on the booklet with lyrics, photos and the rest. The lyrics seem to have a strong statement of intent with cuts like, 'Stand Up And Fight', Stand And Deliver', 'Power', 'Rise Up' and 'Back For Vengeance' , perhaps speaking to the false start in the first era of the band and a renewed desire to bring the Metal to the masses.
WINDRIDER perhaps unfortunately doesn't that same initial magic or youthful enthusiasm as the first album, however, the skill level has increased, the songs are a bit stronger and the performances are stronger as well, which gives a better listening experience. The tempos are driving and the USPM sound is on full display. There is some nice variation, some acoustic guitar , some slower parts on the almost ballad-esque tune, 'Sacred Waters'. The riffs are meaty and run chunky and the songs pound along without getting too derailed or frantic. The tunes have strong choruses and some really nice guitar flourishes that don't overtake the song.
Even if Axehammer had no prior experience or metallic history and if they were a brand new, young band, I'd still have no hesitation recommending WINDRIDER to any fan of true Metal with an ear for the original sound and style of our beloved genre.