It took me a while to get to grips with this album. That can be a very good thing. It sounds as if the band had a few things to get to grips with themselves, interviewing people with mental disorders to find inspiration for their material on this album. Boil are essentially a progressive band but while ticking many boxes don’t conform to one method of playing or ambiance. It just flows. The classic sections are of a melodic rock-metal orientation. They are good and always hard-edged. What shone out for me was the band’s tendency for the unusual. “aXiom” – isn’t structured in a way that it’s divided into classic and experimental, and it’s all the better for it. A ticking clock and wavy sound distortions set the disturbed scene. The vocal style varies to match the mood of the song and so ranges from a vulnerable edge reminiscent of Katatonia and Old Dead Tree on “Sphere” to being sharp and clear on the heavy and melodic “At the Center of Rage”. Each level portrayed develops its own intensity and while there’s an air of Fair to Midland about the everyday way in which the message is conveyed, there’s an uncompromising element in the music and lyrics: “Constant DOWNWARD spiral … don’t you feel guilty inside for constantly trying to reach for attention”. And they’re great songs too, with really accessible structures. To prove the point, “Moth to the Flame” is a classically big track with irresistible catchiness, melodic balance and subtle electronic touches. This is followed up with “In the Blink of an Eye”, which is like a homage to heavy metal, drama included. It’s another cleverly constructed song, delivered in classic fashion with metal reinforcement and dark, creepy moments: “Keep on scratching … it’s like an itch I cannot scratch away”. We then swing between metal and melancholia. “Darkest” slows things down is a beautifully gloomy song, complete with strings.
“aXiom” is modern and fresh, even while representing dark themes. The good can rise to the truly magnificent. “Equilibrium” is simply scary. Set to the imperious and majestic metal melody to which we have become accustomed, the spoken monologue is unsettlingly real: “I just woke up and feel like shit … it felt as if every sound in the apartment was magnified to bizarre proportions … I temporarily lost the car keys … sis stopped by. I told her to go away. I hate family visits”. A repetitive and throbbing electronic rhythm reminiscent of “Tubular Bells” follows and reinforces the imaginary drill which is causing such mental disturbance in not just the narrator’s head, but the listener’s too. It’s too real not to be part of this. It’s genius. “Heretic Martyr” is pure Katatonia, who as you may recall are pretty good at paranoia and mental disturbance themselves. Our troubled vocal hero then braces himself and launches into the most electrifying track you will ever hear. Electronic waves buzz through this track, as the vocalist declares his determination in the face of adversity. A completely gripping guitar line creates the melancholy, the drums serve to heighten the tension, those electronic waves continue to flutter … in spite of the mechanical rhythm the scene is one of almost uncontrollable proportions. The range of emotions, the timing and the excitement are simply immense. We are calmed down momentarily by the short and deep track “Ashes” but by now we’re immersed in a state of nervous tension. To emphasise this point, malevolent metal screams merge and contrast with the calm and hazy chorus of “Sunbound”, another piece of layered melodic metal music which Boil perform so well. The vocalist looks skyward in his appeal but it all sounds so desperate. In a final ode to failure and what might have been, the poignantly real and sad “Almost a Legend” provides an incredibly dark end, both musically and lyrically: “Game over, he beat me, I failed to get it right. Almost a legend”. The theme may not be pleasant but once again the musical balance is perfect.
This is Boil’s third album. The first one, “Vessel” (2004), received much acclaim. It is evident that they have been perfecting their art. I detect moments of Katatonia, Leprous, Fair to Midland, Tool and others but Boil seem to have taken their ideas further. Their work oozes musical clarity and intelligence. The richness of ideas, the shapes, creativity and depth put this album at the top of the progressive sphere. “aXiom” is a work of stunningly originality and one which, in spite of its interminably gloomy themes, manages to find musical balance and beauty.
(9/10 Andrew Doherty)