Beware, the "Supergroup".
The term “Supergroup” originated in the late 1960s and has been recklessly tossed around metal circles by music journalists with increased frequency over the past decade or so. It is a title that needs to be earned and not instantaneously granted on foot of the mere mention that individual musicians from different bands have come together to form a group outside their day jobs. And because it has been applied to a plethora of underwhelming projects, the power of the word has been diluted beyond repair. AxeWound —with their unfortunate moniker— is the latest band to be tarred with this heavily loaded tag. And due to the history surrounding “Supergroups” —stunning successes as well as stunning failures— this band faces the cynical eyes of those in the metal community who have been previously stung by the implications of the word. And that is all before a note of their music has been heard.
AxeWound has been billed as an outlet for Matt Tuck (vocalist/guitarist of mainstream metal juggernaut Bullet For My Valentine) to express his more aggressive side—a bizarre reason for a musician who is already in a metal band, albeit a commercially minded one, to form another. For this project, Tuck has recruited Cancer Bats’ vitriolic frontman Liam Cormier on vocals, Mike Kingswood from Glamour of the Kill on guitar, and Joe Copcutt (Rise to Remain) and Jason Bowld (Pitchshifter) on bass and drums, respectively. On paper the joining of these musicians does not exactly elicit mass hysteria. Nonetheless, the inclusion of Liam Cormier is a shrewd move by Tuck in an attempt to secure some punk/hardcore credibility —Cancer Bats’ profile is on a steady incline, increasingly so since the release of Dead Set On Living earlier this year— and his unbridled screams duly ignites the opening track “Vultures”, from their debut of the same name.
“Vultures” makes for an impressive start; it is a sharp, contemporary metal song, sounding similar in tone to a paired back Slipknot: full of those signature crunching riffs, squealing harmonics and pulsating rhythms. It also has a brilliant guitar solo that has a hint of John Petrucci about it, and the inclusion of this melodic section contrasts well with Cormier’s bile-filled tale of revenge. For the majority of the second song, “Post Apocalyptic Party”, AxeWound are successful in keeping energy levels high. This song is built on a solid structure of biting riffs, as well as familiar chord progressions during its rallying hardcore chorus, but it is the half-time outro that shows the first sign that AxeWound is lacking in the ideas department— the ending blatantly attempts to ape the breakdown from the Pantera classic “Domination”. Such laziness would be pardonable if it was the first time Tuck pillaged the idea but he was found guilty of the same move on Bullet For My Valentine’s single “Scream, Aim, Fire”, and this time around AxeWound’s lifeless version barely scrapes over the finish line.
From this misstep, Vultures begins its rapid descent downhill. “Cold” contains some hard to swallow Bullet-isms, with Tuck taking lead vocals leaving Cormier sounding like a guest rather than the frontman. Tuck’s weak melodies and limp lyrics on “Cold” —which have about as much depth as a two inch puddle— proceed to turn this song into a mediocre Bullet b-side. Vultures continues on with “Burn Alive” and “Exorchrist”, both of which endeavour to balance heavy with accessible. Elements of thrash metal are found throughout the riffs and rhythms of each song, but AxeWound again run out of interesting ideas fast— “Burn Alive” reverting to tired metalcore breakdowns and “Exorchrist” housing a poorly formed and predictable chorus. However, it is the horrendous cheese-ballad “Collide”, that hits the point of no return. “Collide” begins with the obligatory piano led mood-maker, before moving through some hackneyed riffs that are accompanied by a tacky synthetic string section that suits the artificial emotion that Tuck lays on thick through his cringe-worthy lyrics: “Yes it’s me in the shadows / It will be on your grave / I want to feast on your spirit / I want to make you my slave”. It leaves Cormier floating awkwardly as he tries to latch onto the heavier sections, and his vocal presence cannot rescue this truly dire song. “Collide” raises an important question: Why would you begin another band and promote it as a violent prospect when you insist on including songs that drain every semblance of aggression and sound like a weaker version of your main band? It also makes the already clichéd album cover laughable: a massive vulture holding a tattered cloth in its beak, upon which the band’s name is written in typical black/death metal font complete with upside down cross and pentagram.
The remaining three songs try to sharpen AxeWound’s metallic edge in a quest to undo some of the damage, but when you have the faux political ire of “Blood, Money, Lies” with its childish lyrics of “Fuck me / Fuck you / Fuck everything”, there is no salvation. Ultimately Vultures is a complete failure because of Tuck’s inability to take a backseat and rein in his ego; not to mention the rest of the band’s refusal to veto his song-writing ideas. It defies all logic to begin a separate project and for the most part pepper it with sounds and ideas that are already synonymous with your name. Maybe it is down to lack of talent, but it probably has more to do with a lack of imagination. Regardless, AxeWound fall under the stunning failures side of “Supergroups” and Vultures is best left lying alone amongst its metal clichés and turgid song-writing. This is an example of false advertising at its best.