Axegressor – Bannerless (2018) REVIEW

Born from the increasingly rare Finnish desire to straight up thrash in 2006 Axegressor‘s first EP ‘Axecution’ in 2007 was a raw high-speed thrasher not far from the Sodom-worship of groups like Witchburner or Nocturnal with a little bit of a Coroner style edge. By 2009 their first full-length a small regime change meant the riffs would pull back towards late 80’s Sodom almost exclusively. This was the defining release for Axegressor in the sense that they still work with ‘Coma of Souls’ and 90’s Sodom in their veins. I don’t want to box the group’s sound in too harshly, but I’ve found all of their releases a strong approximation of the German thrash approach in the late 80’s and early 90’s.

Criticized for being a bit sluggish on their first album, Axegressor kicked things up a few steps on ‘Next’ in 2011. Thrash metal guitar riffs are a tough and competitive business and at this point the band found a better balance of complexity and driving rhythm. One of their more popular tracks “SS-18 Satan” comes at the middle of ‘Next’ and for my taste it highlights the less ‘driven’ feeling of the bands sound at the time. A lot of thrash bands go for variety and others go for variation, I’d seen Axegressor at their best in sticking with variation considering their actual sound wasn’t original. Some of that would be remedied on the very different 2014 full-length ‘Last’ as they jumped onto a bigger label.

‘Last’ came in a year where the thrash output, much like 2018, was fairly thin and uninteresting with countless revivals from old dead bands. It was a very standard release from the band though the production was great and the growly guitar distortion had never sounded better. I’m all for sub-genre iteration and standard releases in metal, though there were very few important thrash releases from that year in general. What has changed in the four years since? Actually, ‘Bannerless’ is one of the most inspired and varied releases from Axegressor to date.

Still lead by a witching metal growl and teutonic structures their sound in 2018 is louder, heavier and faster as ‘Bannerless’ kicks off with a Stone-like riffer in the form of “In Safe Space No One Can Hear Your Scream’ hell, it even has a guitar solo or two. It seems the band is suddenly no longer asleep at the wheel and the hell-world closing in on us all has lit a fire within. “Ever-Bending Spine” couldn’t more perfectly return to their ‘Coma of Souls’-esque riffing of early Axegressor that feels tweaked into their own signature. I have to admit I’m pretty starved for pure thrash metal in 2018 and I don’t think I’ve gotten a better proof than ‘Bannerless’ yet outside of maybe Rapture or Chemicaust, and both of those are a bit more death/thrash.

I could easily go track by track for the first four songs here with big riffs and hooks that are worth returning to. If you’re familiar with the sort of Voivod-lite last Airdash album ‘Both Ends of Pain’ and can overlook some of it’s bad taste the riff style on that record sort of hits some of the same notes, though I’d throw in Destruction‘s ‘Release From Agony’ too. This shows most on “Igno-rant” and “Peace At Last (Armageddon)” but there are hints throughout. I think it emphasizes that ‘Bannerless’ isn’t just the sort of rote Teutonic thrashing I’d honestly expected after ‘Last’ and should definitely entertain folks who obsess over thrash guitar work. A notably inspired entry in Axegressor‘s discography and one of the better thrash records from the first half of 2018.

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Artist Axegressor
Type Album
Released April 13, 2018
BUY/LISTEN on Brutal Records’ Bandcamp! Follow Axegressor on Facebook
Genres  Thrash Metal

Underrating all consequence. 3.75/5.0

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