Runefire Records 2007
Treading upon well worn paths of traditional black metal can be a dangerous musical premise if you don't execute with conviction and a certain level of emotional commitment to achieve the "correct" atmosphere. Iowa City's one man band, Ax brings to bear a considerable amount of both of the aforementioned qualities. The most immediate musical comparison is of Burzum but there are several other parallels that are lurking beneath the surface like some Gorgoroth and even a hint of death metal through the sharp use of bass drum heavy beats. Extirpation has a definite Nordic feel to it which was probably influenced by the freezing winds of the Midwestern plains. Scarred with Malintent threatens to explode with steadily building climax but never quite lunges over the edge into chaos. Boneshatter being my favorite song on the album possesses a raw abandon that embodies wrathful anger through double bass drums and scathing guitars. Meanwhile Dawn of Solitude blasts away with timber rattling drumming and subtly melodic guitars that evoke images of frozen windswept prairies. Self-described as depressive black metal I find Ax's music to be too hard and to hate-filled to be truly expressive of that emotion until the second half of the album which begins with Dance of Dybbuk. The closing instrumental, Battallion Denouement is chilling in a way that calls to mind classic horror movie soundtracks. Extirpation is nothing too amazing but based on the dedication of Ax I am filled with certainty that given the right exposure it will find its own cult niche within the ever-expanding American black metal movement.