Axegrinder – Satori Review

After the triumphant returns of Amebix and Antisect over the past several years, alphabetically up next in crust punk history is London’s Axegrinder. Back then, this punk-metal outfit dropped only one full-length, 1989’s The Rise Of The Serpent Men, and then they took 25 years off…

Release date: July 13, 2018. Label: Rise Above
Serpent Men fell somewhere between the post-apocalyptic crust of Amebix and the industrialized wallop of Godflesh, closer in scuzzy tone to the former and aiming toward the simplified mighty-world-krush of the latter. With a lumbering trudge that treads the razor’s edge between the monotonous and the hypnotic, Serpent Men comes out the other side as a respectable effort, certainly, and one that sits comfortably on the lower end of the upper tier of 80s crust punk.

Satori shows that, at least in Axegrinder’s world, not too much has changed in that quarter century pause, but now there’s a bit of rust around the edges.

After the spoken word ambient intro, Satori kicks in with “Halo (Snakes For The Breeding),” which readily establishes the template for what’s to come: simple riffs, barked semi-sung vocals, heavily distorted bass and guitar tones, mechanized martial rhythms, very little in the way of dynamics, ideas repeated with only minor variation until they’re pounded into your skull… “Halo” sports a catchy chorus, some shout-along moments throughout, one of the most effective encapsulations of Axegrinder’s aesthetic onhand, and one harshly bleak and in stark contrast to the comically colorful album art.

But I must concede that a large part of its quality is likely merely because it’s first.

From there, Satori lumbers forward, barely breaking stride through “Rain” and “The Unthinkable,” both of which are fine tracks, but largely cut from the same cloth as what came before them, with the addition of the odd female background vocal. Thereafter, however, like the broken society that informs it, Satori begins to slowly collapse beneath its own weight. By the time “Over” hits, the relative lack of any kind of change pushes the desired hypnotic effect just over the line into tedium, and as the chiming chords of “Too Far From Home” break up the relentless pound, it’s too little and too late, and Satori has overstayed her welcome, either by a few tracks or a few minutes of unnecessary repetition on some of the later, longer ones. A few moments poke their head above the fray — most notably the catchiness in the title track — but the latter half of Satori is mostly one interchangeable trudge.

All that being said, Satori is not entirely a boring album — it’s certainly not an abject failure. But it is an album that could use some trimming down. Some solid crusty ideas emerge here and there, and over some repeated listens, Satori begins to come together a bit more wholly, but the problem is just getting there — Axegrinder could benefit from some editorial help, the injection of some kind of ebb and flow, push / pull dynamic into songs that are defined by their singular pacing and distinct lack of variation. Having taken more than 25 years to get here, maybe it’s just a matter of shaking off the cobwebs and getting the fires stoked again…  

Posted by Andrew Edmunds

Last Rites Co-Owner; Senior Editor; born in the cemetery, under the sign of the MOOOOOOON...

  1. I had high hopes for Axegrinder’s return –– even after seeing that atrocious album art. I pre-ordered the album and paid a gazillion dollars in shipping. It hasn’t arrived yet, but, to be honest, I’m not feeling confident that was a good idea! Jeesh. Reviews haven’t been kind. Ah well, maybe those crusty old dogs really needed to learn a few new tricks.


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