AXLS say in their press release that they draw on old school electro such as Kraftwerk and the Human League but also on more recent explorers of the genre such as CHVRCHES and LCD Soundsystem. As a fully paid-up member of the old school electro appreciation society I regularly dig out my John Foxx, Gary Numan, and Depeche Mode albums. Needless to say, I had high expectations of this band and their debut and trust me I was not disappointed.
The opening track “Magnificent Emptiness” is a fabulous brooding intro that any band would kill to walk on stage to. This leads into the first vocal track “Alone”, which paints a bleak electronic picture of a desolate world. This is a great lead-off track with a superb melody. “Snowblind” is a pleasing earworm of a tune with great hook. Next track “Integration” pulls on a New Order vibe with some great bass work from the wonderfully named Conrad McQueen whose low key work throughout gives the music a great resonance. The mesmeric vocals of Victoria Ownsett are poured over a strong beat in every song and although not mixed prominently are always the chief focus of every track. Unexpectedly the central section of this song has a moment when the beat drops out and gives “Integration” a chance to build to a fascinating climax and makes it one of the strongest songs on the album. It’s excellent Kraftwerk /Depeche style fade courtesy of synth wizard Chris Simmons.
There are lots of songs called Heaven or with Heaven in the title. This one is one of the better ones. It has a beautiful melody with a less intense electro feel and a clear pop sensibility. A melancholy track with a hint of New Order again and a strong touch of Blondie in their pomp. Captivating stuff. This album gets stronger as it moves along. The ideas seem bolder on the later tracks and more intricate. “ICBM” brings together all the strengths of this brilliant trio. Melody, Beat, Atmosphere and devilishly catchy hooks abound. Once again the Kraftwerk feel is strong. On “Alias” the rhythmic aspect of the track is superb. What is great from my perspective is that this is not nostalgia, this is truly innovative stuff. “Battle Song” gives off the feel of the wondrous Yellow Magic Orchestra and is surely destined for a film soundtrack appearance. I know there is a game associated with this music but it stands up strongly in its own right. I ‘m a sucker for a catchy synth melody and this album has them by the bucket load.
This music stands multiple listens, a rarity in a good deal of music these days ( old codger alert!). There are many layers to this bands approach. “Ripples” draws the album to an elegiac close and I really didn’t want to get to the end of this one. As debut albums go ‘First Contact’ is right up there with some of the best recent offerings. I shouldn’t show bias but I know that this band, like myself, hail from the North East. Actually, yer know what, I don’t really care where they come from, I am much more interested in where they are going and I will be following with interest. More please AXLS and soon!
This review was written by Paul Bamlett.
All the photos were “borrowed” from the bands FaceBook page, We are happy to credit the photographer. The videos were found on YouTube and again we are happy to credit you if it is yours!
If you have enjoyed this article feel free to follow the blog, or follow us on;
Are you interested in writing and reviewing for With Just A Hint Of Mayhem? If so then please get in touch.