South Wales is an extremely frustrating place to live if you’re a metal fan whose appetite isn’t easily fulfilled by the likes of Disturbed, Bring Me The Horizon or Lamb Of God. If you’re someone who prefers to dabble in the filth and grime of doom metal, black metal, drone, death metal, grindcore, etc. then South Wales can be a soul-destroying place at times… Your standard local metal band usually consists of a group of bored teens or 20-somethings who aspire to be the next Killswitch Engage, and while it’s better to have some sort of metal scene than no scene at all, you’re still hungry for something more…
That said, there are some extreme bands from Wales who have presented something refreshing and great in some form of another: death metallists Desecration, sludge enthusiasts Taint and H A R K, droners Gorgantuan, noise-grinders Atomçk, tech metal crazies Intensive Square and a couple more… but now there’s a new name to add to the list: Gas Axe.
Gas Axe are a band who are pushing a sound that’s as breathtakingly heavy as it is unexplored in the vicinity. Formed by members in the same circle of friends interlinked (in some way or another) by Intensive Square, Der Science Metzger, Choke, Hakin and Burnt Curtains; we’re now lucky to have another extreme band rise up from the pits of Wales. Gas Axe produce a crushing sonic attack, mixing doom and sludge metal with death metal, but with more focus on the former – slow and heavy with suitable injections of double-bass drums. The EP is made up of three tracks, totalling over 26 minutes.
The first track of the EP is Divine Gluttony; which is the longest track spanning a monumental 10.30 minutes. Opening with layers of ambiance and drones slowly rising in the mix, it’s soon filled by what sounds like painful moans of war horns. Then comes the chugging guitars and mid-paced drums, as another guitar layers over the top sounding like another horn variant, if you’re not paying enough attention. The sound is fucking monstrous in the best way possible.
Gas Axe gives you just enough time to let it sink in until the vocals come, guttural and bellowing roars that preach tales of pain, time and loneliness with lines like “Passion stands louring above a sky / grey as the ashes of a truly hated man” and (a personal favourite) “Misery arrows whistle songs of loss / Bloodlines reduced to dust”. As the track reaches past that line (for the first time it appears), the droney ambiance reappears as the chugged guitars and drums drag on and it’s at this point you realise you’ve not heard anything this well thought-out and crafted in too long. The rest of the track you just need to hear for yourself, it’s a progression that can’t be justified by words.
The next track is Extinction Floods At Dawn and bursts straight in with those low-end guitars again as cymbals crash onwards; again those haunting horns (or what sounds like horns) accompanying them. Soon guitars begin to wail after changing up the riff, and the tempo drops only slightly when vocals step in with opening lines “Hope fails you, hunts you down for centuries / Upon a strangled throne you sit alone”. It’s just extremely powerful, especially during moments when the vocals are backed.
While the track as a whole is a more straightforward affair, its pounding heaviness is just maddening. Perhaps the epitome of this is at the 4-minute mark when the drums roll under an almost mocking sliding riff before double-bass blasts in with pure fury. The vocals are layered and echoed in such a way that it’s easy to get lost in your imagination: that this isn’t a human being but a collection of demons or gods or angels screaming in fury as everything they’ve known throughout their existence comes crashing down. It’s powerful. The whole band’s progression after that moment is golden too – again, something you just need to hear for yourself.
The final song in the adventure, Infinity Alone, revisits the tone of Divine Gluttony. It begins with those horn-sounding guitars again, wailing and eventually dissolving into distortion, just before the slow drums kick in. The track feels like a majestic funeral march, the final mile home. Vocals come in but not for long as the band strips back with a brief sense of mourning before they continue as before. The majority of the track is a progression, beautiful and harrowing, preying on different moods – even the bass makes a lone and dire appearance at the 6.08 mark. Soon after, the funeral march continues with a souring guitar solo that echoes through time as much as it does distance. Absolutely haunting stuff.
Simply put: this EP is astounding. Why? Well, despite being mixed at one of the members’ home, the quality is frankly perfect – clean and dirty in the ways it needs to be. Each track is clearly well thought-out and isn’t a collection of knuckle-dragging riffs and breakdowns – this is a soul-searching experience that plays on atmosphere than anything else. The layout of each track is eloquent and the changes are subtle and smooth. This is high-grade doom metal.
For a first release, this is extremely promising stuff and thanks to a trailer for a new track, I Trust Not In The Blood Of Men, it’s very exciting to think about what’s to come from these guys in the future. Easily the most exciting thing to rear its head in Wales’ (and maybe even the whole of UK’s) metal scene in years.
Just do yourself a favour and listen to the whole EP.