Axxelerator – Heads or Tails (Allegro Talent Media)

Friday, 1st October 2021
Rating: 7/10

Hard to come up with an original name these days, but there’s something special about modifying a specific English word and making it as metal as you get from Swiss act Axxelerator. Originating as Rust in 2010, they changed names and released a debut EP Soulcatcher in 2015. The follow-up Heads or Tails may seem like a lengthy wait between offerings at six years – but two lineup changes for vocalist/guitarist Shane Hill and bassist Christoph Widmer slowed progress down a bit. After a few passes it’s obvious the quartet lives for the Bay Area thrash movement as the basis of the Axxelerator sound – while accenting a few modern, heavy, or NWOBHM aspects to fill out these eleven tracks.

Providing a punchy rhythm guitar foundation, a beefy bass tone, and spirited drumming throughout the record, you’ll hear odes to the circle pits and energy of thrash lyrically for “Speedcrew” – lead work and main musical hooks aligning with the buzzworthy days of 80’s Metallica, Exodus, along with cultural melodies that put Iron Maiden and Diamond Head into the mix. Mini-gallops and razor-sharp transitions penetrate the aural landscape – along with a vocal delivery that mimics those veterans of the Bay Area movement, just with a pinch of accented struggle that has unintentional comedic consequences for an otherwise jumpy effort like “Skye on Fire”. When injecting clean guitars and harmony sequences against the expected mid-tempo/faster riff parade, you’ll get more standout moments as the moody “Starwinds” best illustrates, Shane and guitarist/vocalist Valentin Rast providing killer axe parts and transitions that keep ears perked up on alert. Overall, the production and tones present on Heads or Tails possess more of a melodic thrash quality – again subscribing to a bit more NWOBHM sophistication versus the raw/primal outings that other thrash musicians prefer to deliver. The record ends on a blistering note, as the raspy screams and ‘killing spree’-oriented storyline makes “Here Comes the Pain Patrol” good, friendly, violent fun.

The old school aspects have some worthy moments – you just keep wishing that Axxelerator may tighten up a bit of their vocal limitations to match the obvious strong musical components and abilities displayed. Plenty of people who treasure Kill ‘Em All or Pleasures of the Flesh pushed through a modern production veneer may enjoy this record – let’s hope for something a little stronger and more original the next go around.

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