The German Hard Rock / Heavy Metal formation AXXIS celebrates its 25th anniversary anno 2014. Even though the band was formed in 1988, it was in 1989 that their debut album, “Kingdom Of The Night”, was released. Throughout their career, every few years a new album was released, next to the many gigs they played in between.
I got to know about AXXIS in 2006, the year of “Paradise In Flames” (see here). That album didn’t really convince me, although it has good songs. However, I did notice that as a new album came out, it was better than the predecessor. In this case, “Doom Of Destiny” (2007, see here) and “Utopia” (2009, see here), of which the latter was indeed very good.
Two years ago, the band fronted by Bernhard Weiß released a cover album, titled “reDISCover(ed)”. This was quite a letdown for me, as you can read here. Let’s focus on the band’s newest releases: “Kingdom Of The Night II”, available in two versions, a black one and a white one. The black one contains the heavier tracks, the white one combines the softer, more accessible songs. Both albums were released on the 28th of February 2014.
The black edition of “Kingdom Of The Night II” begins with the cinematic intro of the title track. The chorus line is sung and then the song takes off with the typical melodic Metal AXXIS is known for. Good vibrations, everyone! Catchy as always and of course the chorus is where full power is unleashed. Also, don’t let anyone stop you to sing along. The expected solo part is inline with the music and sounds quite refined, I must say. After that it’s back to business and done. “Venom”, as the title suggests, kicks off instantly with powerful music. It definitely rocks! Melody is provided by the keyboards and Bernard’s vocals. The song itself is simple, but very tasty. Before the solo, guest vocalist Natalie Mol has her moment of fame.
“Beyond The Sky” begins soft with a vocal intro with backing sounds. Gradually the music begins to take shape. Once there, energetic, fast and furious Power Metal is offered. The song also has a theatrical feel, thanks to the vocals (lead vs backing), which are very well done. The chorus is of the emotional kind, where the melodic aspect of AXXIS’s music plays a key role. The solo part is sandwiched between two light Proggy pieces. After that it’s back to the chorus and done. A structure that is applied throughout the album.Time, then, to take it into a different direction with “The War”. Here the Bluesy influences pop up, but the whole still rocks. Contrast is created between clean verses and the powerful chorus. The wah-wah solo rounds things off.
Fasten your seat belts and hold on during “Never Again”. A fast rocker, comparable to the tunes of the Swiss Hard Rock band SHAKRA. Excellent stuff! The atmospheric backing contrasts with the heavy riffing. And again the melodic chorus aims straight at your heart, for Bernard and co. managed to make it sound very touching. A vocal break, singing the chorus, offers a nice twist before power kicks back in. And this boost, so to speak, makes it very pleasant to listen to. Another song where the tempo is high (enough) and the music contains enough drive is “Soulfire”. Nice to hear as well how the organ fulfils its role as opposed to the power of the guitars and drums. Clean verses versus a powerful chorus is another contrast applied here.
Even if there’s a split between the heavier and softer tracks, it seems a ballad was necessary: “More Than For One Day”. It’s a mellow song with a Poppy chorus. Keyboards (and symphonic elements) are vital here. It’s not bad, but AXXIS are better at keeping their music ROCK, not go mellow. Salvation is near: “Lass Dich Gehn” (let yourself go). Another powerful song with contrast between the (atmospheric) verses, the (clean, devoid of anything Rock) bridge and the (straight-forward) chorus. In between the guitar adds a squeal to spice things up a little. The drumming is powerful here. As it is elsewhere, but here they appear to be a tad different towards the other instruments. after the return of the intro theme, it’s (wild) solo time. The storm then settles (i.e. acoustic interlude), but soon reawakens.
With “Lie After Lie” AXXIS chose, once more, for Power Metal. This is another fun and tight song where the keyboards’ melodic input is of crucial importance, especially in the übercatchy chorus! Solos are provided by keyboards and guitar. “Mary Married A Monster (our version)” also appears on the white edition as “(her version)”. Here the song begins with an atmospheric intro, preparing the way for the power toe be set free in this linear song. The guitar is the focal point, not just for power, but also for accents (squeals). The wild solo is spiced up with keyboard accents. And then it’s back to the chorus, as usual. Last but not least, we have “Bites Inside” in which the guitar comes fading in, playing a RAMMSTEIN-like riff, comparable, in a way, with their hit “Engel”. All the while the organ operates from the back. This is another simple, linear rocker of a song.
Long story short: in my humble opinion, there are a few (trivial?) points of criticism: 1) same recipe or song structure throughout the album, 2) sometimes the songs sound a little too easy, too simple, which is probably related to point 1). Those details aside: hats off for AXXIS! They did it again and how! “Kingdom Of The Night II (Black Edition)” rocks your socks off, puts you in a good mood, and is excellent to drive away the dark moments. Heavily recommended!
You can read the review of the white edition here.
- Kingdom Of The Night II
- Beyond The Sky
- The War
- Never Again
- More Than For One Day
- Lass Dich Gehn
- Lie After Lie
- Mary Married A Monster (our version)
- Bites Inside
Bernhard Weiss – vocals
Marco Wriedt – guitars
Rob Schomaker – bass
Harry Öllers – keyboards
Dirk Brand – drums