Axenstar – Chapter VIII


Veteran symphonic power metal band Axenstar are back with their aptly titled eight album, Chapter VII and once again have produced a collection of songs filled with galloping rhythms, strong vocals, and great contributions from the guitars and drums, basically everything you would expect and want from the genre.

Swedish power metal band Axenstar formed in 1998 as a cover band under the name Powerage and quickly changed the name to Axenstar and began writing their own material, releasing Perpetual Twilight in 2002 and then two more albums on Arise Records, Far From Heaven (2003) and The Inquisition (2005).   In 2006, the band jumped to Massacre Records and released The Final Requiem and the inevitable lineup changes started soon after as well as a label change to Rock It Up Records for the release of Aftermath in 2011.  Where Dreams Are Forgotten was released to strong critical reception in 2014 on Inner Wound Recordings and the single “Fear” garnering over 700,000 plays on Spotify.  The band once again changed labels to Germany’s Ram It Down Records for the release of End of All Hope and returned to Inner Wound Recordings for Chapter VIII, which was mixed and mastered by Ronnie Björnström (Persuader, Sorcerer, Aeon).

From the opening guitar of “Heavenly Symphony” it’s very obvious Axenstar are a power metal band and from the start to the end their sound is never in question.  Fast guitars, pounding fast rhythm section, clean, smooth and soaring vocals, and great production and mixing are found on Chapter VIII.  Heavenly Symphony gallops along mostly at breakneck speed aided by some great drum lines from Pelle Åkerlind.  Not only does Magnus Winterwild provide some great vocals for the songs on the album, he’s also responsible for the bass guitar work.  Of course, there are the expected guitar solos and they don’t disappoint either but do show some restraint and stay within the song.  Keyboards do make an appearance as well but are

“Through the Fire and Brimstone” initially had me thinking of the Dragonforce song of a similar title but in many ways thankfully, this song is not too similar to that one.  This is more of mid-tempo piece that has a great chugging riff section before shifting into a poppy, bouncy rhythm for the verses, which is very catchy.  Great vocals again and good use of the backing vocals add to the song.  By this point in the album, I couldn’t help but hear vocal similarities to Reese Roper (Five Iron Frenzy), which is crazy considering FIF is a ska-punk band but that’s what I hear.  From a stylistic standpoint, I hear similarities in song structure and vocal phrasing that remind me of Rainbow even if the underlying music, especially the drums are more complex.

The guitar and keyboard instrumental provides a nice interlude and serves as a good intro to “The Flame of Victory” which sees a return to faster power metal and a bit of a darker tone than previous tracks on the album. “No Surrender” and “Holy Land” have the band returning to the galloping speed so common in power metal but despite that predictability, the strong performances and small flourishes here and there keep the songs from sounding repetitive.

“Eye for an Eye” goes in a different direction in terms of arrangement and composition, choosing Magnus Winterwild’s vocals and bass in the verse sections where the guitars take a break.  Almost as if to bring in more sonic elements, “The War Within” has a fast chugging darker riff with some keyboard accents which definitely adds variety but also highlights how the guitar sound on the album is almost too polished to the point that it takes away the impact from some of the riffs.  I stumbled on their song “Curse the Tyrant” from 2014’s Where Dreams are Forgotten and the sound there has more of an edge to it and contrasts significantly to the overly polished sound on Chapter VIII.

On Chapter VIII, Axenstar sound like a band that has been around for over 20 years releasing quality metal.  There is no new ground being broken here, but does there need to be?  Strong musicianship, great vocals and symphonic power metal that is not repetitive makes for a good release and one that seems to get better the more you listen.

Rating: 7.5/10

Written by John Jackson

01. Heavenly Symphony
02. Through the Fire and Brimstone
03. The Great Deceiver
04. Enchanted Lands
05. The Flame of Victory
06. No Surrender
07. Holy Land
08. Eye for an Eye
09. The War Within
10. Life Eternal

Band Members
Magnus Winterwild – Vocals, bass
Jens Klovegård – Guitars
Joakim Jonsson – Guitars
Pelle Åkerlind – Drums

Release Date: Dec. 1st. 2023

Record Label: Inner Wound  Recordings, 2023

Axenstar online

Video for “Heavenly Symphony”  

Video (audio) for ‘The Flame of Victory’

Video for “Through the Fire and Brimstone”

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