Album review: LILLIAN AXE – Psalms For Eternity (3 CD set)

Global Rock [release date 6.04.22]

This month, Lillian Axe release a 3 CD retrospective on Global Rock, SFM’s brand spanking new Rock and Metal label, grandly called Psalms For Eternity. It’s been curated by mainman, guitarist and songwriter, Steve Blaze, one of the only two remaining band members.

The content and the track sequencing is a unique take on the business of putting together an anthology. The tracks on each of the 3 CDs, separately titled Earth, Sky and Sea are carefully selected by Blaze to suit the subject, all chosen from the band’s studio albums.

Condensing 9 albums to a 3 CD “best of” can never be easy.
It is naturally subjective, and the choices made are generally comparative judgements. At least here, Blaze got to make the decisions, and not some unidentified label exec.

CD1, Earth, takes an interesting, “Memento” like approach, counting back from 2012′s ‘Death Comes Tomorrow’, and finishing with ‘Misery Loves Company’ from the 1988 self titled debut.
Why? To illustrate a point, we think. ‘Death…’ is a powerful, tightly orchestrated slice of operatic metal. ‘Misery…’ is a heavy metal drama. The approaches are similar. The song structures and the tempos are similar.
Lyrically though, there’s a huge chasm between the 1988 song’s “my baby left me” narrative and the 2012′s ambitious, man alone fighting for his soul theme. That’s the point (we think).

CD2, Sky, takes a similar approach. Beginning with ‘The Great Divide’ from 2012, and counting back to ‘Waiting In The Dark’, from 1988. The reverse engineering concept is still there. But the focus here is on a closely related trio of tracks. ‘Nocturnal Symphony’, ‘Twilight In Hell’ and ‘Living In The Grey’ all ramp up the dramatic lyrical and musical intensity before breaking out into more familiar metal territory. We’re following the thread running through these CDs, and it’s an enjoyable ride.

CD3, Sea. And yes, we’re still in the Nolan brothers’ territory. And this, clearly, is the “Ballads Disc”. Heavy Metal ballads are traditionally rationed to one per album, reflecting the genre’s fan base, which has an innate desire to otherwise stomp feet and bang heads.

None of your chest beating offers of endless love here. Just your pained reflections on life, living, order and chaos. The collection opens with the sensitive acoustic arrangement of ‘Bow Your Head’… leading inexorably to the beautifully crafted acoustic instrumental, ‘Deep Red Shadows’, both seeking comfort in darkness by adding orchestral shading as the tracks progress.

But the set’s biggies cast a huge shadow over everything else. ‘Fields Of Yesterday’ and ‘Ghost Of Winter’, are each an 8 minute multipart metal epic. Blaze uses the music as an emotional power, disturbing, lyrical, technical, dark in places and light in others. He makes it work. If you can have two “Magnum Opuses”, then these tracks are they.

And arguably, it’s “thinking man’s heavy metal” songs like these that Lillian Axe will be remembered for. ****1/2

review by Brian McGowan

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