Axxis – Kingdom Of The Night II (Black Edition)
Reviewed by Arno Callens
In 2014, Axxis and I both celebrate our 25th birthdays. The German power metal veterans have about six months on me, though, and unless I rob a bank and abduct a couple of musicians, I won’t release an anniversary album anytime soon. I have the material, just not the manpower.
Axxis beat me to it anyway, with a double-album nonetheless. Kingdom Of The Night II is , as with all sequels, a bloated version of the original: not one, but two discs. A Black Edition consisting of “heavier, darker” stuff, and one White Edition filled with “ballads and more quiet songs”. I don’t know if there’s much demand for the latter, but the former at least drew my attention. Utopia still gives me melodic shivers, after all, and last year’s reDISCOver(ed) is not only a horrible ordeal to type, but also did little to quench my thirst for new material.
Being a stranger to the original Kingdom Of The Night, I don’t know how this stacks up to Axxis’ beginnings. As a follow-up to Utopia, however, it’s fairly satisfactory. The trademark upbeat sensibilities, infectious melodies, and Bernard Weiß’ helium balloon-vocals are all firmly on display, as if very little time had passed. The opening title track is one of those “move your feet and stamp around”-songs that Freedom Call would agree with, and despite your misgivings about dancing and metal, I dare you to resist. It’s a celebratory tune, the kind you hear at weddings that would make you cringe in everyday life, but in that situation and with that many drinks inside you, it’s just fun to hum along to.
The rest of the material is more meaty. “Beyond The Sky” captures some of that flighty spirit that lifted the best moments of Utopia into the stratosphere, “Lie After Lie” has the kind of hyperkinetic video game lead melody that’s so typical for this band, and “Bites Inside” is power metal with the faintest snarl possible. Most German bands would flinch at the idea of doing a song in German – or so Alex Beyrodt of Silent Force and other fame once told me – but Axxis embraces their native language with “Lass Dich Gehn” which means so much as “I’m Going To Kill Everyone”, because it’s German. If you can’t figure out what it really means, perhaps it’s time to go back to school. Another standout is “Mary Married A Monster”, an allegorical fairytale about abusive marriages. Or something. I’m just singing the refrain here without looking at my screen.
Most of the choruses are similarly catchy, but contrary to Utopia, they’re all a bit alike. Not that every song isn’t well crafted, but after a while it feels somewhat repetitive. Constantly entertaining, but not always as memorable. My guess is that Axxis attempted to bridge the heavy metal of their early days with the power metal of now, and the result is an album in between traditional tastes and modern progression. As an overview of their career, it’s probably representative, as the next step in their evolution it feels retrograde. In any case, it’s nice to have Axxis back into the Kingdom Of The Night, and hopefully we won’t have to sit through another round of covers before the next one rolls around. Here’s to another 25, and if I feel particularly sappy or I’m appropriately stocked up on tissues, I will give the White Edition a go.
3.5 // 5