It should come as no surprise that there are quality albums being put out that are, for the large part, falling under the radar for one reason or another. Let’s face it, it’s a subject that’s all too familiar to smaller bands and it usually comes down to as Sonata Arctica put it a, “Shitload of Money”. It’s nothing short of a crime that most people haven’t heard of Power Theory, but in a sense, that’s why it gives me such sheer joy to bring these guys some much needed light. Not because I’m a hipster douchebag, but because I truly love bringing attention to bands that deserve some much needed praise and admiration.
An Axe to Grind is the sophomore release from Penn state big boys Power Theory and is without a doubt, one hell of an album. Usually, it takes me a few moments to know whether or not I’ll like an record, but from the instance of the first triumphant power chord I was immediately sucked back into a bygone era of metal where devils, wizards and clairvoyants were common place in mainstream music. Flashes of Paul Di’Anno, Accept, early Iron Maiden (especially during “Deceiver” and “The Seer”) immediately rush into the head. The immediate reaction is one of familiarity, almost as if Accept had put out a new album with a radically different sound. What’s interesting about An Axe to Grind is that it genuinely felt like something I had heard before and was glad to hear again. An Axe to Grind is very sure in what it is; it’s a brazen attack of traditional, almost NWOBHM-ish metal. They don’t stray away from it like Demolition or Load, they don’t beat the horse with the same ol’ stick like the new Megadeth, they find freedom within their confinements and use it liberate themselves from the pressure of having to come up with a new sound; the result is something fresh yet familiar, satisfyingly heavy yet catchy. It’s a sound that lives in a pocket of existence in the mid to late 70’s, with sprinklings of Led Zepplin, Angel Witch, and Diamond Head.
The only thing that really missing from the album is a face melting solo. Don’t get me wrong, there are solos aplenty on this album, it’s just that I don’t remember ever being blown back by a colossal scale run or dive bomb. It’s sad really, because it’s the only element that’s missing from this masterfully crafted sound. The solos that exist are not bad by any stretch, but they don’t make me feel like picking up my guitar and practicing guitar leaps off my bed. Unfortunately, that’s pretty much the standard for this genre of metal. Don’t misunderstand me, it’s nothing major like Acacia Strain when they covered Slayer and completely left out the solo and replaced with a god-awful breakdown. Apart from that, everything else on the album is great; the riffs are amazing and the tone reminds me a lot of Rocky George or Wolf Hoffman not only in their attack but also in their cleanliness. You can hear every single note that’s hit, it’s not something that’s muddied up in post; think the exact opposite of the Melvins.
The great thing is that everything that’s wrong on the album is easily trumped by what is right; though the solos could be better, the sheer energy and push behind the songs easily makes up for it. Any way that you slice it, An Axe to Grind is definitely prime rib.