And going straight into the top ten of bands taking a break between albums we have Axegrinder with 29 years between this and debut ‘The Rise Of The Serpent Men’ which originally came out way back in 1989. I have to admit I missed it the first time around and have no excuse why as I was listening to loads of Anarcho and crust punk at the time. Perhaps it was due to the fact that Axegrinder had an evident metallic sheen to their sound and they were definitely a bit of a round peg in a square hole, leading to their eventual long term hiatus in the early 90’s, fed up and disillusioned with the whole scene. I did luckily discover them eventually when Peaceville reissued their debut and was very glad that I had as Rise was a solid album and has lived up to the times as an extra play proved in the run up to reviewing the new album so I could compare and contrast them.
So what apparent differences are there between the two discs? Well obviously age has brought the tempo down a little bit, there’s a bit more of a sartorial elegance here (someone had to say it) and the sound is less abrasive, more controlled and not quite as hectic and clumsy this time around. The huge technological Voivod thrashing that I considered to be the major influence of the debut is not there which in a way is a bit of a shame and that could well be something to do with the line-up which appears to be largely down to founding vocalist Trev and guitarist Steve who have re-launched the group and are looking at expanding it to play live in the future.
I approached this with caution having been previously burnt by the similar reactivation of Antisect and not liking what I heard at all (a band the shadow of their former selves) but thankfully from the opening introduction of ‘61803398875’ with its Crass like poeticism and the chugging refrain of ‘Halo (Snakes for the Breeding)’ I knew we were in the right sort of territory. Indignity, disgust and an evidence of hatred to all the ills in the world are clearly and contemptuously snarled out in the guttural vocal delivery and Trev does a great job showing that political ideals are far from forgotten for his part. Sure they may not be playing as fast as bands like The Electro Hippies who they played their last show with and Doom et al but the crust, the filth and the vocal fury come through fine. Melodies are catchy and twist and turn away embedding themselves in your head. There’s plenty of grit on songs like ‘Rain’ which looking at the moody video seems to be attacking Serpent Men like the church, religious leaders and those that continue to pollute the world. Standout track for me is ‘The Unthinkable’ citing everything from Amebix to Killing Joke in melodicism and with its hard hitting ‘here come the crazies’ chorus line it is a memorable diatribe once heard very difficult to shift.
At times the music has that late 80’s post gloom and doom vibe to it favoured by many long forgotten bands in the Anarcho scene such as Karma Sutra and Thatcher On Acid. Listening to the haunting ‘Over’ takes me right back there. The times may have changed, but have they really? The lyrics speak clearly that this is just as sadly relevant today as it was back then and of course things like refugees and lives torn apart from conflict are never far away as the venomous ‘The Hurting’ attests. There’s plenty of atmosphere and the title track exudes a sorrowful vibe that things are far from well so if you are looking for a happy listen this resurrection and new beginning won’t have you beaming from ear to ear despite the somewhat vitriolic chorus line of it and the rabble rousing ‘Under The Sun.’
So no denying they took their time but as far as I’m concerned it’s a welcome return for a band who have definitely still got an axe to grind. Hopefully they will get some modicum of success and recognition this time around and I am certainly keen to catch them live for what will be the first time round for me. I’ll be keeping eyes peeled for dates and my ears glued to this.
(7.5/10 Pete Woods)