The T 666
This is a band with a bright future ahead of them.
AXIOM's first full-length album, "A Means to An End", can be described as a metal album first, a progressive metal album second. The band's clear focus was to give us a compelling, smooth-flowing, coherent collection of interrelated metal songs that attack the listener with very precise riffing, never losing the focus on the primary goal. The conceptual nature of the subject, the close relation between tracks (between which there are no pauses) and the excellent level of musicianship the band displays are the primary elements that help configure "A Means to An End" as a progressive-metal album.
As mentioned before, the main element in the music is metal. Precise, original riffs dominate every single song in the album. There's hardly any soloing for the mere sake of soloing. When Whisenhunt decides to take a moment on the spotlight for himself he does it because it's in the song's best interests to do so. We never get the idea that he is trying to show-off his skills; what he does is for the concept's sake. The same can be said of the work of the rhythmic unit, where the drums are probably the instrument that displays a greater degree of freedom throughout the record. But even Herzer, the skin- basher, controls his attack and doesn't try to steal the show for himself. It's all part of a conscious plan whose ultimate goal was to create a cohesive, intelligent conceptual prog-metal album. The band AXIOM comes before, the musicians that form the band are secondary in their scheme of things.
If we were to mention a few bands that AXIOM reminds us of in this record, METALLICA would probably be one of the first names to come to mind. In fact, at the beginning of the album, for a few seconds, we feel like if we were going back to the 80's, ready for our new dose of fantastic riffing. One of the songs even begins with a very similar drum/guitar pattern/fill to the one that opens the heavy part of "Blackened". On the more directly-progressive side of things, AXIOM clearly drank from the fountain of FATES WARNING. The album's structure clearly brings back memories of that band's legendary "A Pleasant Shade of Grey". The style of powerful singing that the vocalist employs is more akin to that of the aforementioned progressive-metal giant than to the much more sung, melody-based style that the other big prog-metal founder, DREAM THEATER, favors in their compositions. It's clear that other bands that the members of AXIOM have heard are metal legends like SAVATAGE and QUEENSRYCHE, but also more experimental bands like TOOL, more classic bands like PINK FLOYD and even bands in the post-metal genre with the grey, somewhat-nostalgic feel that permeates the album.
The musicianship is quite good in AXIOM, even though they still can get much better in some aspects. The drummer is clearly the most proficient instrumentalist in the record, with a perfect mix of restraint and acrobatics, using the hi-hat for interesting patters and the double-bass drums sparingly but powerfully enough to create a lasting impression. The bass does it job, we can't say it shines but we can't say that it disappoints either. The guitars, the main instruments in AXIOM, are somewhat of a mixed bag. Most riffs are very interesting and perfectly played. It's when the guitarist tries to solo that a few imperfections in his technique show a little bit, but they never take away from the quality of the sonic experience and the guitar playing never sounds sloppy or even mediocre. It just doesn't sound perfect. On the other hand, we have to praise the great amount of original ideas the 6-string instrument is able to display throughout the album.
The vocals are my biggest complain with AXIOM. Though not bad or distracting, they aren't that brilliant. Whisenhunt sounds a little like a less-powerful version of James Hetfield with a little bit of Ray Alder thrown in the mix. But he lacks the soaring heights that the latter reaches or the uniqueness that characterizes the voice of the former. Melody is not this singer's best skill, and there are times when it would have been of a huge benefit to this album to include more melodic sections and more easy-to-distinguish choruses. This is a department where AXIOM still has to improve.
All in all, a great debut for a very promising career. A few flaws in the vocals and the lack of great memorable melodies make me give this album a 3.5 over 5.
"A means to an end" is just what this album is, the first step towards achieving a goal, which doesn't seem to be too far to reach for AXIOM.