Album Review: AXIS Shift
While still underground when compared to other subgenres in the metal community, there definitely has been a sharp rise in metallic hardcore groups within the past five years or so. From recent quality releases like Code Orange's latest two LPs to Knocked Loose's debut, a new wave of the style is proving to be of large significance (a "revival of first-wave metalcore" may rather be a more accurate description for these bands, but considering the term "metalcore" has been plagued by a completely different style of playing nowadays, we'll stray from that label). Most of all though, I think it is important to understand that these modern metallic hardcore acts are concerned more with unconventional musical elements in comparison to the straight forward, high tempo identity that metallic hardcore has previously held.
The goal of Axis, along with the aforementioned groups, seems to be focused on sonic and rhythmic experimentation to achieve intensity. Although these artists are grounded in metal and hardcore as their style, much of the material sounds inspired by industrial or post-metal. Axis has gone on record claiming experimental post-hardcore bands like Drive Like Jehu, Shellac, and classic Hydrahead artists to be main influences. With time, I foresee Axis joining the popularity ranks of the likes of Code Orange as their identity is not only similar, but their quality is of equal level in terms of songwriting and attitude (God Mother is yet another that belongs in the group of new metallic hardcore forerunners for anyone searching for more of this style). Axis' debut album titled Show Your Greed was released in 2015. Yet their more powerful sophomore record, Shift, has all too literal of a title as their lineup showcases an actual shift from a five-piece to four-piece regarding the departure of former frontman Rafael Morales. Guitarist Dylan Downey stepped up to the plate in taking vocal duties while still performing guitar alongside guitarist Patrick Chumley, bassist Tyler Forsythe, and drummer Thomas Cantwell.
On this record, there are constantly in-your-face tracks like "Sovereign" or "Ravine," however the majority of these pieces are blessed with tasteful dynamics through atmospheres, groovy riffs, and odd rhythms. Although a lot of the tracks blend together in their aggressive states, I would vote "Solipsism" as maybe the most dynamic followed by "Parasitic Eye" and "Soma." The two title tracks "Shift I" and "Shift II" serve to be successfully atmospheric and ease into their following pieces, however I wish the band even furthered this pattern of transitioning instrumentals into heavy hitting songs. As for the pieces following the previously stated title tracks, "Fear and Impulse" is delightfully manic, begging you to bang your head and aggressively tap your feet, while "Tightrope" is more controlled and ends the record with solid riffage.
Shift is more than just a hardcore album with metal tendencies. This LP is full of intricate melodies, atmospheres, and grooves hidden within compositions. If you're either a fan of the experimentation within modern metallic hardcore like Code Orange or the older metalcore/post-hardcore sound like Today is the Day and Converge, I'd say listen to this record right away. Although I most definitely look forward to seeing these guys like in the future, I recognize that Axis was on point in translating the likely immense energy of their live shows into these twelve tracks without compromise.