Today Is the Day
Axis Of Eden
posted on 10/2007 By:
I’ve always been a big Today Is the Day fan. They were one of the first “extreme” bands of any variety I ever heard, and Steve Austin—that famed spelunker of your wife’s butthole—instantly captivated me with his capacity for blending creepily psychedelic melodies and textures with pure fury. It’s hard not to respect the man; he’s been a relentlessly innovative fixture in the noise rock/heavy metal landscape for fifteen years now, both at the helm of his band and behind the mixing boards of some of the most influential metal albums of the aughties. That said, I couldn’t help but feel that TITD’s last two albums have been hit-and-miss affairs. 2001’s Sadness Will Prevail was a sprawling two-disc endurance feat of a listen that was truly stunning at its high points but too undisciplined for its own good. Kiss the Pig’s release in 2004 was an utter reversal; where its predecessor was super ambitious and progressive, Kiss the Pig was perhaps Austin’s most terse and conventionally ‘metal’ album to date. Like Sadness Will Prevail, it was excellent in places but deeply flawed—the songs were dulled by a muddy production and the rushed drum performance of Circle of Dead Children’s Mike Rosswog. Thus I found myself approaching Axis of Eden with cautious enthusiasm, and, fortunately, that’s what this album merits. Far more focused than Sadness and lacking the rushed-out-the-door feel of Kiss the Pig, Rev. Steve’s latest is an admirable—but not stunning—addition to the TITD archives.
Now, these guys had their work cut out for them to start with. Temple of the Morning Star and In the Eyes of God are two of the most emotionally devastating albums ever recorded, and combined with TITD’s reputation for weirding all and sundry the fuck out, they place some steep expectations on Austin and his band. As though that wasn’t enough to encourage expectations of a crusher from’em, Axis of Eden also features the strongest lineup since the In the Eyes days. Bassist Chris Debari is now the band’s longest-running non-Austin musician and is in danger of becoming permanent (!?!?!?), and virtuoso skinsman Derek Roddy (ex-Hate Eternal) is perhaps the only drummer in the band’s history who can go step for step with Brann Dailor’s performance on In the Eyes. Furthermore, this is Austin’s first release on his own Supernova Records, meaning that he is facing no deadlines and has total creative control. By all rights, this should be easily their strongest record in years.
And it is—but not by as much as I’d like it to be. Like most of their fans, I’m used to Today is the Day making me feel uncomfortable. That’s one of the things I’ve always liked about them. While I can definitely see this sending some major chills up a TITD newbie’s spine, most of Austin’s freakout songwriting tricks seem a little…familiar to me on this one. This might be because there’s a notable similarity in Axis of Eden’s semi-death metal aesthetic to the one found on Kiss the Pig. This might also just be because I’m a jaded fuck.
But no amount of familiarity—or jaded fuckery—can impede Austin’s famed conviction and sheer riffing might, and this disc forcefully compels me to bang my head. There are some brief explosions of noisy, wild-eyed nihilism like the appropriately named “I.E.D.” and the paranoid noise rock throwback “The Worst Thing That Ever Happened to Me,” but as usual, Today is the Day does best when Austin stretches out a little bit. Austin can be a truly oppressive guitarist, laying about with open string hits like a cudgel on “My Wish is Your Command” and the Jekyll-and-Hyde title track. Roddy plays his role perfectly, adding color where he should but never attempting to steal the show with his ridiculous speed, and Debari’s bass work is lent all kinds of heft by a warm, organic production that seems a little off on headphones but is ideal for blasting out of your car’s fucked-up speakers. Sometimes the band’s pitch-black aesthetic and calliope-from-hell melodic sensibility gets overwhelming, but Austin still manages to make it all worth it with his bizarrely emotive songwriting style—tell me to my face that you can listen to “If You Want Peace, Prepare For War” from start to finish without getting a tingle up the ol’ spinal column and I’ll call you a liar. Actually, I’ll probably ask you how you found my house while surreptitiously calling the cops, but whatever.
So there you have it. Lord knows that Steve Austin doesn’t give a fuck about reviews—he probably started his own label so he can do as he pleases ignore assholes like me—so the following is for you the reader’s benefit. Today is the Day have released another album. It is not their best or most inventive album ever. It is still pretty damn awesome. Steve is still crazy. He still fucked your wife. Some people, like me, will love this shit. Most people will hate it. And if you haven’t already checked out and formed an opinion about this band, your head’s still up your ass.
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