Inner Axis – Midnight Forces (Fastball Music)

Monday, 18th March 2024
Rating: 7 / 10

Hailing from Kiel, Germany, Inner Axis represents the marriage of classic heavy metal influences channeled through some modern touches. Since their start in 2008, they’ve released two albums Into the Storm and We Live By the Steel – using the downtime of the pandemic to release a double single and work on videos. Now that things resemble normalcy in the entertainment industry, Midnight Forces showcases a third record that continues the melodic heavy metal approach, chock full of twin guitar action plus steady rhythm section mechanics, as the singalong vocal melodies / choruses keep the anthem atmosphere on point.

Attention to key transitional movements allows the musical hooks to take on even more magical impact – where chugging riffs can soon shift into slower, fluid parts to induce hair whipping, fist waving moments on key tracks like “Strike of the Cobra” and the Hammerfall-esque “Steelbladed Avenger”. The axe play of Nino Helfrich and Zacharias Drosos contains that pure true guitar hero quality that put Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and Manowar into the hearts of millions during the 70s and 80s – featuring all the key rhythms, lead spotlights, or tandem harmony components that keep ears attuned to the next song. Where the modern touch comes into focus is through the choices of tones beyond capturing the sound through current production techniques – this scribe appeased with the snappy snare sound beyond the proper bass bottom end support (courtesy of Annihilator’s Rich Gray in studio duties).

One key element that could make or break full enjoyment would be the seesaw delivery from vocalist Kai Hagemann. He has a tendency to inject a slightly whiny or warble nature in specific verse components, almost sounding a bit more epic/folk-ish versus your Halford, Dickinson, or Dio-styled powerhouse singer. Additional chimes make the ending of “This Is the Way” charming, settling the stage for the next double kick / power barrage within “Evil Dead” – a personal favorite featuring some killer Mercyful Fate-like riffs as well as stunning lead break action. The record ends on an epic note through “Blade of Glory” – the 8:23 arrangement effort throwing in a bevy of atmosphere changes, including a reflective somber organ section where background choirs enhance the lower register melodies.

In the end, Inner Axis presents serviceable heavy metal that could gain modest appeal to those who desire a group that stands true to the ideals of the genre – but doubt creeps in that Midnight Forces will be more than a local favorite. Time will tell.

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