Wall Of Spears
Passing the torch from legendary metal bands to the next generation can be a daunting task, but US youngsters Thorr-Axe handle the duties of stoner metal legends like High On Fire, Electric Wizard and Ocean Chief well, creating a crushing if not overly original metal sound that will please fans of the genre. They bring new material as well as reworked tracks from their demo Roots Of The Mountain to their début album Wall Of Spears, masterminded by renowned producer Bob Fouts.
The power-trio demonstrate proficiency in their instruments, whether in slow crushing chord progressions like “Hung For Nine Days” or fast crunchy riffing as on “The Island”. Melodic and technical solos are dotted through the album, the most impressive being on “The Dragon King”. The distorted bass gives out a heavy low-end, but seems buried from production and playing the same as the guitars, whereas drummer Roach has more to say, including some punk-style beats on the title track. Although each song has a very distinctive intro and feel, the main musical flaw of this album is that the riffs are very over-used, limited almost to one per track. Each song is also structurally quite similar, with each solo entering at an almost predictable point. This is somewhat understandable, however, given the ages of the musicians, and songwriting comes with practice.
The vocals, handled mostly by guitarist Thomasson, are a sludgy hardcore scream which seems quite low in the mix compared to the guitars. Whether this is deliberate or not, it draws attention away from them and the varying lyrical quality. Most of the tracks carry a Norse theme, referencing Odin, Bolthor and Yggdrasil like an Amon Amarth cast-off, but they throw in other tracks like the amusing “Brewmaster” with the repeated line “All Midgard will bathe in beer”. Unfortunately there are some pretty terrible lyrics, such as the line ““Here on this island, two men enter, one man leaves/And from the looks of it, that one man will be me”. The best vocal performance is given on the closer track, the reworked “Sundering Of The Frost Giant”, where Roach joins in for an impressive double-attack of high and low growls, finishing the album nicely.
To give the band their credit, I can imagine they deliver the songs well in a live atmosphere, and there were many enjoyable moments of headbanging. Despite its faults, Wall Of Spears can be counted among the better début albums, if not quite to the standard of their heroes. It ticks all the boxes, and I look forward to following the progress of this band on their next release.
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