|Musical Style: Heavy Metal||Produced By: Bill Menchen|
|Record Label: Retroactive||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2006||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 10||Rating: 55%|
|Running Time: 38:03|
The history of vocalist Keith Miles and guitarist Bill Menchen dates back to the late eighties when the two put together the Christian metal band Final Axe. Releasing the bands full length debut Beyond Hell’s Gate on East West Records in 1989, the two soon began recording a follow up effort to be titled Burn In Hell, but the album was never finished and placed on the back burner indefinitely. Miles (under the moniker Simon Tyler) and Menchen reunited in the mid-nineties and formed Titanic, a hard rocking outfit that put out its debut Maiden Voyage in 1996 before following up six years later with a sophomore release entitled Screaming In Silence. In 2005 Retroactive Records made the decision to re-master, remix and ultimately re-issue Beyond Hell’s Gate with two bonus tracks; this, in turn, led to the latest venture by Retroactive- releasing for the first time on CD Final Axe’s sophomore recording Burn In Hell under the new title The Axe Of The Apostles. The Axe Of The Apostles finds Miles and Menchen returning to the studio to complete the albums recording process, while Robert Sweet (Stryper) was recruited to fill in on drums.
What The Axe Of The Apostles brings to the table is more of the same type of metal and hard rock found on the past efforts of Miles and Menchen. The key phrase here is “more of the same” in that the albums ten tracks, with a few notable exceptions, follows the same pattern set by Titanic on Maiden Voyage and Screaming In Silence in that all its compositions pretty much sound the same. Pretty much sounds the same? Well, after repeated listening I find The Axe Of The Apostles falls short of the mark due to its lack of creative diversity, its material failing to hold up due to being carried by the same mid-tempo paced riffs and featuring choruses of the redundant and repetitious variety. In order to gain a better understanding of my point, I would advise anyone reading this to FIRST listen to Beyond Hell’s Gate and you will find much more diversity: A couple of tracks move in a commercial metal direction, several reflect a classic metal influence while others give prominence to a thrash feel. The Axe Of The Apostles fails to bring that type of variety. And that is its ultimate downfall.
First and foremost, it is important to keep in mind that not only was the music here written back in 1990, but the guitar and vocal parts were recorded the same year as well (both bass and drum tracks were later added to put the finishing touches on the album). Miles continues to bring his raspy and mid-octave ranged vocal style, putting forth a performance ranking with his efforts on both Titanic albums. Menchen contributes his trademark fast-fingered but at times bluesy lead guitar work in addition to furnishing the albums bass lines. However, it is Robert Sweet who delivers the goods on drums, adding some intense double bass on “Vengeance Is Mine” and bringing just the right amount of tight as a nail touch to “Heads Will Roll” and “Metal Missionaries”.
Production values come across quite laudable for music recorded fifteen years ago. The rhythm guitar sounds nice and edgy and the drums crisp and clean. Unlike Beyond Hell’s Gate, the lead vocals do not end up dominating the mix this time around.
For you history buffs, here are the details regarding Burn In Hell: The album was originally slated to be a fourteen track release (what happened to the other four songs?) but was only issued on cassette as a four song EP entitled Slaves. A review appeared in Heaven’s Metal 28. Heaven’s Metal 30 also reviewed a four song video by Final Axe under the title Alive X 2 which included live versions of “Vengeance Is Mine” and “Don’t Run Away” along with conceptual videos of “Rated X” and “Heads Will Roll”.
The album gets underway with “Heads Will Roll”, a driving mid-tempo hard rocker with a chorus that is repeated twice by the band in repetitive fashion. Robert Sweet adds some nice work on double bass but it is not enough to put the song over the top.
Likewise, “Burn In Hell” showcases a great deal of guitar driven momentum but it is also held back by its lack of a strong, ear catching chorus. Menchen does contribute a blistering guitar solo with a good bluesy feel.
“Ball And Chain” slows the pace down a bit, gradually moving through the first part of its verse portions until an edgy rhythm guitar leads the way to a chorus I might describe as tedious at best. The songs lyrics, on the other hand, are quite good:
These prison walls keep closing in
This chain grows longer as I continue in sin
Link by link, yard by yard, can’t ya see the scars
Tonight I’ll change, oh please believe
“Hangin’ By A Thread” is another slower and more mid-tempo paced number with a terrific upfront rhythm guitar sound. A chorus giving rise to an all around pedestrian feel, on the other hand, prevents the song from holding up under repeated play.
“Dealing With Death” follows the same pattern of the tracks preceding it, featuring a near perfect blend of rhythm guitar and drums but held in check by the monotonous manner in which its chorus is delivered. Menchen nails another tastefully done blues flavored guitar solo.
The album finally gets out of its malaise with the excellent “Vengeance Is Mine”, a very exemplary track which gets underway to a plodding riff with an almost doom-like feel to it. Opening its first verse in commanding fashion as Miles growls its title, “Vengeance Is Mine” culminates for an intense double bass driven chorus with a message every bit as powerful as the catchy hook driving it:
Messiah, saviour, Jesus, creator
Spirit, healer, righteous, redeemer
This song gets an A+. Why couldn’t they have given us a few more like this?
The albums backslides to its repetitive ways with the banal hard rock of “Slaves”. A chorus lacking any type of relevant hook helps to place the song in the same category as the albums first five compositions. In the end, just about everything here is starting to sound here. Next.
You could not ask for a more cheesy title to a song than “Metal Missionaries”. The only problem, however, is that it represents one of the albums brighter spots, delivering an abundance of guitar driven energy and a terrific non-stop hook filled chorus. “Metal Missionaries” is aptly titled as it talks about the importance of musicians walking the talk:
Raise a stone and dig another plot
Had us convinced you’re something you’re not
We see the signs, your pulse grows weak
We feel betrayed each time you speak
Your pressure’s low and dropping fast
You never left behind your past
A state of shock, your heart grows cold
The one true God is whom you sold
“We’re Not Heroes” falls victim to the same pedestrian tendencies characteristic to much of the albums material. The song starts slowly to a quietly played guitar line before the rhythm guitar kicks in and backs another chorus conveyed in a redundant manner.
The album closes strongly with “Worlds Away”. The song marches through its verse portions at a choppy mid-tempo pace until it tapers off even further for a catchy chorus backed by a touch of vocal harmonies.
With only three good songs out of ten, The Axe Of The Apostles adds up to an inconsistent and irregular effort. As previously stated, much of the albums material comes across as if cast from the same mold; with that in mind, what is needed here is a bit more versatility and a few more catchy hooks. That being said, when the band is at its best - such as on “Vengeance Is Mine” – they hit the proverbial nail on the head. The albums production, at the same time, is quite good as is the performances from Miles, Menchen and Robert Sweet. In the end, if you are looking to purchase something that showcases the work of Miles and Menchen I might first start with Beyond Hell’s Gate or Titanic’s Screaming In Silence.
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Heads Will Roll” (3:19), “Burn In Hell” (4:05), “Ball And Chain” (4:04), “Hangin’ By A Thread” (3:07), “Dealing With Death” (3:17), “Vengeance Is Mine” (5:01), “Slaves” (4:35), “Metal Missionaries” (3:02), “We’re Not Heroes” (4:27), “Worlds Away” (3:03)
Keith Miles – Lead Vocals
Bill Menchen – Guitars, Bass & Keyboards
Robert Sweet – Drums
Also Reviewed: Final Axe - Beyond Hell's Gate, Menchen - Red Rock, Redeemer - Double Edge Sword, Redeemer - Anno Domini, Rev Seven - Heavy Laden Volume 1, Rev Seven - Heavy Laden Volume 2, The Seventh Power - The Seventh Power, Titanic - Screaming In Silence, Titanic - Full Steam Ahead
“Alive X 2 review.” Heaven’s Metal 30 (1991): 42.
“Metal Tracks.” Heaven’s Metal 28 (1990): 25.
”Slaves review.” Heaven’s Metal 28 (1990): 39.