The Codex Barathri

It’s almost criminal to have to review this so soon after reviewing labelmates Dagorlad, as they sound very, very similar. Whereas Dagorlad describe themselves as (and I quote), “Melodic, dark evil, epic fantasy black/death metal”, Axamenta merely consign themselves to the far simpler “Melodic, epic, fantasy, horror, black metal” category – You see, two completely different genres.

 Initial listens separate the two bands about as much as their self-proclaimed descriptions, but in all fairness Axamenta are a far more polished, focused and all-out better band than Dagorlad.

 As with their musical twins, there are lots of sweeping keyboards, galloping guitars and epic moments of war mongering clarion. But where they are superior to Dagorlad is the simple element of songwriting and structure. I was at first a little worried as I heard a couple of apparently mandatory instrumental intros, but unlike Dagorlad, they didn’t get boring or go on overly long. Axamenta makes good use of instrumental interludes and intros to great effect and they add atmosphere to the music, not the caustic rambling segments of Dagorlad’s ultimate downfall.

One of the strongest tracks, “Echoes,” is 5 minutes of varied tempos, moods and ambience from the naturalistic samples and acoustic pagan intro, through a superb early Bal-Sagoth death metal pounding, complete with a lord Byron like defunct bellow. The next track “Godsman” displays Axamenta’s ability to switch gears as if morphs from the downtuned lumber of the previous track to a far more uplifting and grandiose mood. The opening keyboard work being very “bouncy” more akin to Skyfire in its exultant approach. This is essentially what I enjoyed about this band – they really did know how to incorporate a wide variety of subtle musical disposition with the framework of each song. This ultimately made each song fairly unique with an individual sense of character.

However, they did seem to lack a real killer instinct, or that single “wow” moment that makes you stop and hit rewind instantly. Despite an inherent chameleon charm in the songs, they are fairly conservative. Vocalist Mordheim has a varied voice that has the deep bellow mixed with the blackened scream that Lord Byron perfected. The good news is during the one or two spoken passages (again, had me thinking of Dagorlad’s ill-chosen visage), he remains in character with a suitably evil voice that doesn’t break the mood of the album. In retrospect, one of the better song s on the album, “Deciphering Darkness,” is a relaxing yet epic mainly instrumental track with some brief spoken words, and it works surprisingly well.

As is the norm on the album, the shape-shifting Axamenta follow this small moment of escapism with the vigorously keyboard heavy and satisfyingly catchy “Elemental Dance.” In fact, to think of it, I really cant pick a “weak” song on the album, other than the already mentioned fact they really don’t take it to that extra level on bombastic memorablity that leaves a song drumming in your head days after the initial listen. This may be due to the somewhat “busy” nature of the synth arrangements or the oft-meandering riffs that twist and lurch with a kind of disordered chaotic precision. Generally, the music is far less dark than Dagorlad, with at times a power metal melodic canter like Elvenking (“Through the Scarlet Forever”) or Suidakra like war-march getalong (“Submissive to the All”).

Production wise, Codex Barathri’s crisp, clean and synth heavy. If fantasy metal along the lines of any band mentioned in this review are your thing, you would do well to pick this up, as it satisfies on all levels that that genres touches, and is one of the more impressive fantasy/epic metal releases I’ve heard recently. This surprising debut from this promising band only bodes well for the future as they hone their warcraft.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
July 17th, 2001


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