Athrox – Through the Mirror (Revalve Records)Monday, 12th November 2018
It’s always nice to develop musical chemistry through other bands when forming a new unit. In the case of Italian metal act Athrox, guitarist Sandro Seravalle and drummer Alessandro Brandi have been playing together in previous outfits since 2008, giving the quintet a leg up so to speak since their 2014 inception here. Releasing their debut album Are You Alive? on Red Cat Records in 2016, they’ve moved to Revalve Records for the follow-up Through the Mirror – and it’s an engaging mix of traditional heavy metal with power/thrash inflections that leans towards commercial possibilities for the group.
Injecting sound clips from international news radio circa World War II makes the electric current running through “Ashes of Warsaw” that much stronger, a forceful rhythm and equally intoxicating vocal delivery a definitely early album crowd-pleaser – sitting in that sweet spot between latter day Judas Priest and prime-time Metal Church. Speed isn’t necessarily the motivating factor for the guitar parts and general tempos – the band really keying in on catchy hooks for dynamic appeal, whether they are slower and reflective during “Empty Soul” or machine-gun riffing and double bass mechanics a la Metallica during “Decide or Die”. The expressive, melodic voice of Giancarlo Picchianti has that alternative accented snarl, but also has that leather lung power that bares similarities to John Bush during the verses of the seven-minute opener “Waters of the Acheron” while conveying the proper lower emotional register during a ballad like “Dreams of Freedom” as a seasoned professional. It’s as if the band delve deeper into those sweet spot segments that people walk away humming and singing along to – regardless if hammering out a distorted power riff or switching things up into a clean sequence – the adherence to details possibly a difference-maker as the band stride into their career.
Through the Mirror probably will be one of those hidden gems simply because they straddle the melodic metal/power/semi-thrash genres. You know the deal – too heavy for some, and not heavy enough for others. Do not sleep on Athrox though – we need more bands in the scene that gravitate towards multiple generations, embracing their love of heavy metal with its diversity and strength at hand.