The press release which accompanied Into The Serpent’s Den described Italy’s Axevyper’s third long player as classic metal but with an added boost and influenced by Iron Maiden and it is this Iron Maiden influence that you are going to instantly notice. There is no getting away from it and so I may as well discuss this straight away in this review and lay it out on the table. This isn’t just a glancing nod in the way of Maiden this is exactly like early Maiden, maybe with a few Helloween references to mix it up a bit but it sounds and feels like the late 70’s early 80’s Maiden.
Here at Moshville Times this sparked a discussion that, considering Maiden’s success over the last 30 odd years, there haven’t actually been that many bands we could think of that has looked to this period and this band for inspiration to the point where they sound so much like them. I’m not sure anyone really came up with a name, although Editor Mosh did point out that the same could also be said of Fear Factory and he discussed this with the band when he interviewed them recently. [actually, Dendera’s first album is very “Maiden” in it’s sound, though that’s not a criticism as it’s bloody good – Mosh] Maybe it’s because they are so distinctive or maybe just because you have to be pretty special type of musician to replicate what they do that this has not happened. This does not mean it’s a bad thing and the album is certainly not a Maiden tribute act. So, if you are someone who thinks there is only one Maiden maybe it’s not for you. If on the other hand you loved that early period and want hear songs in a similar vein delivered with the enthusiasm that Maiden had themselves in those early days, read on.
It doesn’t take “Brothers of the Black Sword” long to set the scene. Right from the solo drum intro to the guitar this is a classic metal vibe. The song also has a very strong signature guitar solo at the beginning. In modern days’ terms we might even call this melodic metal. We hear the sound of a sword being unleashed and we know Axevyper mean business. When vocalist Luca Cicero starts singing you are again going to be struck by the similarity to their influences but the band carry this very well and what we have with “Brothers of the Black Sword” is a triumphant, melodic, attacking song. What is very clear is that this is one talented band and this opening track is delivered with such energy and musicianship that after a couple of listens this has already become a firm favourite. The guitar solos peppered throughout are always a good choice and enhance the track rather than just show off, whether it be a traditional solo or a riff based melodic storyline. Let’s not forget the bass though, such a distinct sound on early Maiden albums and like Steve Harris, bass player Andrea Tognatti has that running style of bass chugging through the whole song and it really helps to keep the song fresh and at times breathless.
“The Adventurer” is a definite highlight of the album. It is the only song where they actually calm the pace down for the beginning and instead have a quiet guitar intro and calm and relatively emotional vocals. It is not long before all the band kicks in and we again get the full on assault but why this song works so well is that when the vocals are reintroduced you are already on that emotional plain and you relate to the lyrics so much more. Vocal-wise this is very much Helloween Keeper of the Seven Keys territory, but very much like the Maiden influences Axevyper do this very well too. It has the same emotional intensity and also pace of the vocals as Helloween at their best; catchy, punchy but speaks volumes.
Another track worthy of a mention is “Spirit of the Wild”. The opening instrumental minute really captures the spirit of Axevyper – it is full on assault, technically very, very good, especially the guitar solo. Once the vocals kick in and the “Spirit of the Wild” chorus slams out, I was won over. It has a great call and response chant with the full band but the actual chorus is similar in style to “Run to the Hills” and you can easily see any audience relating to the sing-along chorus.
Final track on the album “Beyond The Gates of the Silver Key” has a medieval feel to the intro, that slowly builds, punctuated slowly before the full band is gently eased into the mix. A military tattoo style drum pattern joins in before it goes off plan with a single guitar solo. This is a well-orchestrated piece, plenty going on without being too showy. It’s a great demonstration of what the band has to offer. The guitars throughout are exceptional, great riffs and interplay with an emotional edge. It leaves you in awe of the talent this group progress.
Into the Serpent’s Den may very well have both feet firmly in the past but the bands whose style they mirror are no longer producing this type of music anymore. So if you want to revisit a style that went out of fashion with sweatbands but delivered impeccably, with enthusiasm, is a tribute without being a tribute band then I would definitely recommend Into the Serpent’s Den.
Into the Serpent’s Den is out on February 26th.