Axis Mundi is certain to become a staple of the death metal genre and a classic of the scene, I have no doubt about this. Decrepit Birth‘s 2017 output is very possibly the best death metal album of the year and without question it is undoubtedly my favourite release of the year. After the awesome Polarity I felt that Decrepit Birth had hit their pinnacle, and as good as that album was, I still wasn’t sure why this act garnered so much praise and attention. With the release of Axis Mundi the validity and praise of Decrepit Birth is no longer a matter of debate for me.
I can assuredly proclaim this to be one of the best technical death metal records I have in my collection. It’s composed of twelve tracks that have somehow mined the perfect territories between technical prowess, varying tempos, intelligent songwriting, brilliant leads and performance. Never having been a huge fan of the band before I can truly say that I wasn’t expecting this calibre of record to land in my mailbox. I have always been aware of how good Matt Sotelo’s playing and lead work was but he really has outdone himself on this record.
“Vortex of Infinity… Axis Mundi” is a great way to start this album, the mid-tempo crush of the song follows the eerie synthesized intro perfectly. Also, I’m not usually a huge fan of spoken word bits, yet Decrepit Birth make it work. The processed nature of the vocals and spoken bits may have something to do with it, but when the death gurgles show up just before the mid-way point there is a ton of tension already built up. It creates a nice release especially when accompanied by the devastating musicianship of the band.
Sotelo’s guitar tone is also inspiring, sounding like it is always just shy of breaking up into a whole new stratosphere of transdimensional gain tones. The opening moments of “The Sacred Geometry” have some simple, straightforward chugging moments that also happen to be some of the coolest riffing on the whole album. The mathiness that you are going to find all over this album reappears around the two minute mark and takes us into a nice bridge and solo section followed by that same catchy chug riffing. It’s a really satisfying passage and basically a microcosm of the entire album.
It’s really hard not to find yourself getting sucked into the cyclical nature of many of the riffs and heavy grooves. Decrepit Birth have also finally truly mastered the mid-pace crunch as proven in the epic and mosh worthy track “Transcendental Paradox”. Nearly the entire duration of this song has me yearning for a writhing, sweaty mosh pit to climb into. Decrepit Birth have always had their own distinct style and sound in my opinion and now having adopted a little more crunch and mid-tempo variance into their catalogue makes for a welcome evolutionary step for one of modern death metals current leaders.
When I discovered that Axis Mundi featured a cover of Metallica’s classic “Orion” I wasn’t really sure what to expect from their version of the cover or the way the song would fit on this slab. Somehow these magnificent bastards pulled it off though and offer up a very modern toned yet traditional sounding take on Metallica’s instrumental. The updated nuances and subtleties provided by the better quality gear and production methods make for a very cool update on this often covered song. Let’s not forget that guitar tone either…
This album is also visually pleasing, and I don’t often mention artwork or layouts in my reviews but I felt it was necessary for this release. Featuring artwork by the famed and well respected Dan Seagrave, the intertwined composition and murky colour schemes seem to complement the music perfectly. Really what you are getting here is a complete package, right down to the physical presentation. The care and thought put into this release on all levels is obvious and kind of reflects a simple idea: that the band are fans of the genre themselves and know how important it is to have a nice release for fans rather than some thrown together effort.