AXXIS
"Time Machine"

(AFM/Locomotive)

01. Mystery of Time (Intro)
02. Angel of Death
03. Time Machine
04. Wind In the Night (Shalom)
05. Lost In the Darkness
06. The Demons Are Calling
07. Wings of Freedom
08. Dance In the Starlight
09. Battle of Power
10. Alive
11. Gimme Your Blood
12. Don't Drag Me Down

RATING: 7.5/10

Everyone outside the U.S. is probably thinking we're smoking some high-grade Yankee crack over here at HQ right about now — after all, "Time Machine" was released in Europe in early 2004, and AXXIS has a new album coming out this month. What gives with the late review? Well, Locomotive Music is releasing a bunch of AFM titles in the U.S. — stuff that deserves mention, although most diehard fans probably bit the bullet and paid import price last year for it. Consider this more a public service announcement than anything, as well as a bone thrown to the kind publicist who gamely shipped us a big package of TANKARD, U.D.O. and PERZONAL WAR reissues that probably won't see the light of print, due to space considerations.
So what's with AXXIS, anyway? This is the band whose "Kingdom of the Night" debut was a smash hit in Germany, whose vocalist Bernhard Weiss has one of those idiosyncratic love-it-or-hate-it voices, and who've barely registered a blip on the radar in the States. Like friends and tourmates PINK CREAM 69 (whose Dennis Ward mixes here, and whose drummer, Kosta Zafiriou, stepped in after original skinsman Ritchie Michalski literally went missing, prompting unsuccessful police searches), AXXIS deal in a muscled-up AOR sound that flirts with power metal. "Time Machine" features some songs that emphasize the double-kick and prominent backing vocal choirs, particularly opener "Angel of Death" (no, not that "Angel of Death").

Even on the more straightforward hard rock songs, AXXIS's trademark melodies and gigantic choruses are in full force — Weiss carrying even some more generic material with his charismatic vocals and infectious melody lines. He reminds me a little of "Peavey" Wagner of RAGE — the first time you hear him, you think "who told this oaf he could sing?" Two choruses later, you're used to his quirky style, and you don't know what your problem was with him in the first place. It's always refreshing, in this age of digital manipulation, to find a vocalist with personality and character.

Highlights include festival-ready peace epic "Wind In the Night (Shalom)", gooey AOR confection "Dance in the Starlight", and defiant "Battle of Power", one of those power-to-the-people anthems so full of theatrical heavy metal glory, it's a surprise Doro Pesch isn't involved. There's plenty of more metallic moments, like "Lost In the Darkness", that are satisfying as well – though one hopes the band doesn't lose sight entirely of their rock roots. We like AXXIS as AXXIS, and not a GAMMA RAY clone — but for now, the band seems to be able to balance their various moods well.

This sort of AOR-with-balls tends to get ignored in the U.S. (anyone remember PINK CREAM 69's ill-fated attempt to make it here by changing to "PC69" for one album?). The power metallers dismiss it as frothy kids' stuff, and those into heavier fare can't be bothered. Really, this is born-too-late radio rock, the kind of upbeat, life-affirming metal that shoulda been all over the airwaves in the late 1980s. Lucky for those of us into this sort of thing, the rest of the world's tastes aren't so fickle, and bands like AXXIS can survive and thrive overseas. "Time Machine" is a fine slab of soul-stirring, instantly memorable hard rock with class and heart to spare.

I'll see what I can do about getting you a review of their new one, "Paradise In Flames", sometime before January 2008.

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