AXXIS – Retrolution (Album Review)

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AXXIS Bernhard Weiss Firefest 2014 by Shawn Irwin
Bernhard Weiss at Firefest 2014. Photo by Shawn Irwin.

I first became attracted to the band AXXIS based on their logo. Seeing the band listed in the roster during my inaugural excursion to Sweden Rock Festival, but I was completely in the dark when it came to them. I did my due diligence and researched the bands in that Sweden Rock roster, sampling songs from videos on Youtube. The AXXIS logo really stood out to me even before hearing their musical compositions, it just screams 80’s hard rock to me. I was not misled and soon discovered a world completely jam packed with strong melodic metal gems.

Soon, I again was blessed enough to witness them live a second time during Firefest: The Final Fling, this time being far more educated. Furthermore, the band was something to behold at that festival, making my personal top 3 bands of the whole thing! AXXIS‘ melodic hooky metal is overlaid with the captivatingly unique vocals of Bernhard Weiss, who recently was rewarded with the culture award for his musical accomplishments and his outstanding work with the local youths in his hometown of Lünen.

A Little AXXIS History

Beginning life in the late 80’s, AXXIS released their initial offering, Kingdom of the Night in 1989. Prior to AXXIS the group originally went by the name Anvil. Consequently abandoning that moniker in favor of Axis (with one “x”) upon discovering the existence of Canadian band Anvil. In addition, the second “x” appeared in the band’s moniker after being signed to EMI to distinguish from EMI‘s German publishing company, Axis. In those early days, AXXIS was fronted by Bernhard Weiss, guitarist Walter Pietsch, bassist Werner Kleinhans, and drummer Richard Michaelski. By the second release, Axxis II, keyboard player Harry Oellers had joined the group. Throughout the years Axxis have compiled quite an impressive catalog of 13 full-length studio efforts as well as numerous Compilations, Live albums and EP’s. Their fourteenth long player, Retrolution, became available February 24th, 2017 thanks to Phonotraxx Publishing.

AXXIS – Retrolution

AXXIS Retrolution coverToday we find only Weiss and Oellers remaining from the beginnings of AXXIS. Therefore, rounding out the 2017 AXXIS is Rob Schomaker (bass), Dirk Brand (drums) and Stefan Weber (guitar). This fourteenth outing boasts a whopping 13 titles with a run time around 50 minutes. I’m not too sure that I understand the album’s title, however. What is retrolution? Just a word the band made up? And the album artwork is equally silly depicting a classic model truck devouring a man, his legs dangling from the jagged teeth that make up the front bumper of the vehicle.

Defining “Retrolution”

While Googling “retrolution” returned images of ladies in lingerie…apparently, it’s a product line of ladies undergarments! After getting quite distracted there, Urban Dictionary provides the following definition: “A “revolution”, usually led by elderly conservatives, aimed backward in time toward the restoration of some idealized period in the past, often the 1950s. Retrolution (retro-revolution) is a right-wing reaction against modern society and politics. Retrolutionists often scream about “Taking the country back” from the liberal, progressive left wing of politics. What they mean is both “taking the country back” physically, as well as “taking the country back” in time, usually to the time of their own youth.” OK, it still makes no sense in relation to the album cover that I can connect anyway.

Finally, the official AXXIS website sheds some light on the subject and clears up some of the fog. The album’s title is explained there as a wordplay of the words “retro” and “revolution”. The site also states: “Retro is a word that is once again very popular and revolutionary for the music lovers and their tastes. Pictured on the album cover, is an oldtimer who is swallowing a person, the expression being just how massive the Retro-Revolution has taken over the music world. On their new release, AXXIS reach back into the past to their classic pure Hard Rock hymns era.” Well, finally now I get it and it makes sense!

Thoughts on Retrolution

AXXISRetrolution raises the attention immediately with “Burn! Burn! Burn!” and its tasty guitar riff beginnings followed by the thumping rhythm section kicking in. Guitarist Stefan Weber is newly recruited to the AXXIS ranks and his guitar tones and engaging fretwork in “Burn! Burn! Burn!” instantly captivating. Showcased over all this are Weiss‘ distinctive vocals, everything leading into a melodic sing-along chorus. The lyrical content, from what I can discern sheds a little more light on the album’s title as well.

After the just over three minutes of the lead track, we keep pressing the pedal to the floor. Surging forward with “All My Friends Are Liars”, Retrolution is loaded with sing-along vocal harmonies, intriguing guitar work, and thundering rhythms. Although AXXIS may be known for their ballads, there aren’t really any here. However, “Burn Down Your House” is a slower affair. Thank God as we all know how I love those damn things!…spoke too soon “Queen of the Wind” pops in at the eighth position and it’s not too bad overall.

Conclusion

Retrolution has been hailed as a return to form for these German melodic metal masters. And I would wholeheartedly agree! Throughout, there are catchy hooks and thumping rhythms. Some standouts are “Rock the Night”, “The World Is Mine”, “Heavy Metal Brother” and “Welcome To My Nightmare” (not an Alice Cooper cover). That’s not to take away from the other tracks as everything here plays well. This album would serve as a good introduction to AXXIS. It’s a fair start but you’d certainly do well to check out their back catalog as well.

BUY: Retrolution

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The Meister 

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