posted on 8/2006 By:
As big a fan of bombast and grandeur in my metal as I am, I’m willing to acknowledge that any kind of dramatic pageantry requires a steady hand and fine sense of balance to properly execute. On one hand, evoking the proper sense of camera-panning-over-fantastic-landscape cinematics demands a certain degree of elaborate instrumentation and arrangement, lest the band sound like just some regular ol’ bunch of musicians as opposed to tale-spinning sonic bards or whatnot. Conversely, if you skimp on the metallic chutzpah, you end up making company with…Rhapsody. Some younger bands have this balance absolutely down pat; Disillusion’s ’04 masterpiece Back to Times of Splendor employed sparse folk elements and unobtrusive keyboards to augment their already epic brand of melodic death metal, while California’s Weakling and Wolves in the Throne Room craft vast sonic sculptures with droning, stratospheric melodies and hypnotic black metal rhythms. Axamenta could rank with these bands, and might well do so in the future, but as of Ever-Arch-I-Tech-Ture haven’t quite pieced together that crucial equilibrium between punch and pomp.
Not to say that they haven’t improved. Axamenta’s first full-length, 2002’s Codex Barathri, was a fairly genre-bound orchestral black metal album that was too deeply saturated with fruity symphonics to really show off the band’s hidden knack for memorable, sticking arrangements. Four years and a completely new lineup later (only vocalist Peter Meynckens remains), Axamenta has brought all kinds of heavyweight melodic death metal in to augment the polished theatrics, and the improvement is immense. Ever-Arch-I-Tech-Ture delivers both the hooky riffage and the pretensions to sweeping histrionics from the very first, as “Incognation” rocks back and forth between the gravity of its necksnapper guitar work and the expected makeup-clad baroque dramatics. “Nation in Atrophy” isn’t a far cry from Hypocrisy’s latest work, seeing Meynckens exercise both his earthy growls and his mainstay blackened rasp while the band throws around meaty grooves and menacing octatonic lead figures. Axamenta seems most confident and in control of their ambitiously grand sound when locking into more controlled tempos; songs like “Ashes to Flesh” and “Of Genesis and Apocalypse” nearly sold me completely on this album with their exactingly executed Edge of Sanity references and thunderous pacing.
Unfortunately, though, Axamenta can’t maintain that control consistently, and Ever-Arch-I-Tech-Ture wobbles into overblown silliness more often than I’d like. Instrumental interludes like “Foreboding” and the title track are almost entirely composed of sampled instrumentation and do nothing but break the album’s stride with their cheesedick musings, but it’s the overbearing and deliberately highlighted use of huge keyboard sweeps, breathy spoken word passages, church bells and the like during the actual songs that annoys most. The only reason bands like Dark Tranquillity and the aforementioned Edge of Sanity can be taken remotely seriously is their willingness to relegate their keys to a supporting role and let the metal command the spotlight. Axamenta’s insistence on placing equal emphasis on both the excellent guitars and less-excellent symphonics, along with Meynckens’ all-too-familiar scream, ruins that Golden Ratio of epicness and places the band squarely on the Dimmu/Cradle of Filth side of the fence.
There’s a lot to like here, and Axamenta pulls off some extremely challenging songwriting gambits (even the ballad “Threnody for an Ending” is pretty good, largely thanks to Dan Gildenlöw of Pain of Salvation’s guest vocal performance). Still and all, the proliferation of hammy arrangements steals gravitas from what would be a masterful technical melodic death album. Ever-Arch-I-Tech-Ture is good, but these guys have a ways to go and some self-control to develop if they hope to really dominate their chosen niche.
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