Historians will look back on the release of URFE as a true turning point in the development of an art form. Marrying a lengthy spoken-word narrative with thick layers of ambience from various sources, The Axis of Perdition have truly upped the ante with their approach to aural narrative, spinning something like a cohesive narrative across two discs, hundreds of disturbing sound textures and a couple moments of truly wretched industrial metal. The marriage is so in-depth that it is nearly impossible to separate the two elements of Urfe, and yet I wished I could be on the mixing board so that I could hear certain things better at different points, usually the narrative. Chances are, though, the average avant-garde metal listener, open-minded as they come, will just be pissed for having to wade through an hour of ambience before the first of a handful of moments featuring an actual metal band occur.
Once deciphered, which will surely take dozens of listens, listeners will probably have the complete blueprint for a still-born mythology, corrupted in varying points from a collective unconscious of words, images and sounds designed to induce disgust and revulsion in a listener. The band has named Silent Hill as an influence before, but here, the interactions of human sexuality and supernatural horror really draw upon the ideas of Clive Barker, in words and sentiment.
The chief problem is that there are either too many words, or too many sounds. In many places, the balance is handled to maximum effect. But at points of conflict in the narrative, it is clear that the band only raised the volume on the whole mix, leaving the elements difficult to distinguish. Actor Leslie Simpson handles the extended narrative as protagonist, omniscient observer and background noise, simultaneously acting and reading. As the narrative goes on, his protagonist seems more and more unnerved by the proceedings, cracking and going into shock from the sheer stress of a sustained, horrific experience, and this is conveyed expertly in his voice, his choice of phrasing. Other times, he has no choice but to shout, at which the album loses the subtlety that makes it effective. The band, meanwhile, works up some fierce ambient created equally by keyboards, highly processed guitars and vocals, the results of which are truly a film without images, organized, structured and placed in the mix to extreme horrific effect (headphones or surround sound highly recommended.) The fully musical segments, which one could count with one hand, and which still incorporate the story and Leslie Simpson’s narration at points, range from ambient synth passages to jazzy guitar. There are only a few true moments of metal on this album, and they are standard Axis – twisted riffing and samples over ambient/industrial black metal with soundscape production qualities.
Urfe is a mature work, and would probably make an incredible live experience, with some theatrical aspect. But with the mixing levels as they are, the story, the momentum and focus of the album, is often lost, causing the audible bits of text to appear phantasmagorically, perplexing, but often quite beautiful.
– Adam Matlock
Release: January 2009
Label: Code 666
Avantgenre: Cenobite Summoning Metal
Duration: Disc 1 44:25, Disc 2 45:38
Official site: http://www.myspace.com/theaxisofperdition
Review online since: 04.02.2009 / 22:55:15
01 – Grief Of The Unclean I
02 – Grief Of The Unclean II
03 – Grief Of The Unclean III
04 – Grief Of The Unclean IV
05 – Grief Of The Unclean V
06 – Grief Of The Unclean VI
01 – The Great Unwashed I
02 – The Great Unwashed II
03 – The Great Unwashed III
04 – The Great Unwashed IV
05 – The Great Unwashed V
06 – The Great Unwashed VI