My first encounter with LILLIAN AXE’s music was in 2007, when they released “Waters Rising”. As you can read from my review (see here), I was pleasantly surprised by the strong material on that album. It didn’t take long before the label, Locomotive Music, then had to close its books. LILLIAN AXE then signed with Blistering Records for the follow-up, “Sad Day On Planet Earth” (2009), which I never heard, nor the one after that, “Deep Red Shadows” (2010). Thanks to a deal with AFM Records, the band presents its eleventh album, “XI: The Days Before Tomorrow”. This was released at the end of January 2012.
LILLIAN AXE does not play Metal, rather Hard Rock with a good slab of melodicness, delivered by the music, but in a bigger quantity by the vocals. Perhaps also one of the reasons why the band has a new vocalist (Brian Jones, who replaced Derrick LeFevre), a bit similar to Rain Irving in WHILE HEAVEN WEPT. “XI: The Days Before Tomorrow” contans ten tracks, although the press release speaks of eleven. “Angels Among Us” apparently is the European bonus track. I don’t know how it sounds, but apparently it’s also a ballad.
The album begins with “Babylon”, where you can already detect the catchy riffing and the soothing voice. This builds to a climax, which is followed by a firm take-off! Nothing fast, but speed is never an issue with LILLIAN AXE, not that they have to shift into 5th or 6th gear. Other bands’ music is more fit for that. Anyway, the aforementioned melodicness comes out here in the bridge, which is slower, to then flow over into a faster, firmly rocking chorus. The solo rounds off this first song. A very good start, no doubt about that. “Death Comes Tomorrow” is next with rocking riffs and you think the tempo will this time be higher, but alas. It would have been nice, though, to hear a faster song (personal opinion). LILLIAN AXE keeps it slow and melodic, as the piano in the verses confirms (the song also ends like that). That part sounds very SAVATAGE-like. guitars and drums come in in the bridge and full power is set for the chorus. Despite that power, this is a rather solemn song, I had the impression. The solo moment is again well done.
“Gather Up The Snow” is song about melody, feel and atmosphere. And so it begins, to then connect with firm verses. They contrast with the (slow) melodic bridge and dito chorus. This creates a nice combination, but I would not have minded if the chorus were a bit fiercer. However, the band does get into a more straight-forward bridge before the solo, which is backed by the rhythm pattern of the verses. As a result, another job well done. “The Great Divide” is another jewel on this album. Beginning calm and atmospheric, the contrast couldn’t be bigger when the Rock button is pushed. Or better, the melody is carried on by the electric guitar instead of the acoustic one. So you get more force and volume. The verses are again quite tight and firm with clean, wavey vocals. Wavey, by lack of a better word, as in stretched. The bridge is melodic and quite touching. The chorus’s melodicness is mainly due to the layered singing. This is very well done, beautiful as well! The obligatory solo comes next before the chorus and of course end of the song.
Automatic fire sets in “Take The Bulllet”, followed by pounding Rock with a nice groove and leadwork. As the entire album is not exactly about the birds and the bees, you can sense the emotion in the chorus. The song itself is quite straight-forward, simple and effective. Now, it may sound simple, but as a musician you have to stay focused. Especially the drums then, as Ken added some fills to break the linearity. “Bow Your Head” is the first ballad, acoustic and dreamy in its intro. The vocal input is very important, like before. The chorus holds more power, if you can use that word here. The solo is inline with the overall feel. But again, the acoustic guitar lines… breathtaking. Time to get rocking again with “Caged In”. And it does the job, oh yes. The pre-solo and solo moment itself are very nice and stand out here. This is another firm track and to the point, but I found the ending a bit annoying with the repeating of the songtitle (“caged in, caged in, caged in, …”).
“Soul Disease”, a midtempo groovy Rocker, offers a nice rhythm and beat with the layered vocals standing out. It nice to hear how the verses rise to a climax that is the (melodic and intense) chorus. The solo has a Bluesy touch, at least the piece preceding it. A beautiful clean bridge follows the real solo before it’s chorus time again, which sounds hymnic somehow, in a musical way. “Lava On My Tongue” is another Rocker, with ups and downs, but for the biggest part it thus rocks! Obviously with a catchy rhythm and vocal lines, that follow the guitar. There are two solo parts, the first being preceded by a nice, strong bridge. The other solo is set more towards the ending. The album concludes with “My Apologies”, another ballad. Acoustic verses connect with the more powerful bridge and (semi-acoustic) chorus. The singing is more humble in this song.
LILLIAN AXE’s eleventh album is, as far as I’m concerned, another release to be proud of. Very proud indeed. This is my second LA release and I can’t say which of the two is the better one, though “XI: The Days Before Tomorrow” does have an advantage, generally speaking. The clean vocals reminded me sometimes of Rain Irving of WHILE HEAVEN WEPT, which is a good thing. The production is very well done, the songs themselves are well composed and the album in general can stand the test of time. For all those into melodic Hard Rock (with a dark undertone), I can only heavily recommended “XI: The Days Before Tomorrow” from the underestimated band that is LILLIAN AXE.
- Death Comes Tomorrow
- Gather Up The Snow
- The Great Divide
- Take The Bullet
- Bow Your Head
- Caged In
- Lava On My Tongue
- My Apologies
- Angels Among Us (bonus track)
Brian Jones – vocals
Steve Blaze – guitar, keyboards
Sam Poitevent – guitar
Eric Morris – bass
Ken Koudelka – drums