Battleaxe - Power From the Universe Reissue

by Matt Hensch

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Battleaxe is one of those bands from the 1980s that went from nonoperational to reformed decades later thanks to revitalized interest from new generations of heavy metal seekers and the loyalty of longtime listeners. Battleaxe broke out of obscurity, reformed, released new material, and has enjoyed newfound vigor. "Power from the Universe," one of the group's few records before splitting up, sees a celebratory reissue here, marking thirty years of existence. Released in 1984, Battleaxe took their NWOBHM roots and sprinkled on bits of hard rock chemistry to make the album a nifty slab of classic heavy metal. Mixing metallic lashings akin to Accept and accessible mechanics of heavy rock, "Power from the Universe" is sharp as a knife and well-made for the style it attempts.

"Power from the Universe" utilizes a rock-based NWOBHM blueprint. The aggression and drive of many British metal bands at the time are exchanged frequently for 80s rock tempos that are glazed naturally in metallic guitar tones and themes. Full-scale anthems on both sides of Battleaxe's spectrum are here: "Movin' Metal Rock" and "Make it in America" show Battleaxe taking the accessible route, while others kick up the belligerence and explore melodies and riffing styles of their steelier cohorts. The tunes rocking (0/10, I know) the hard rock structure are the weakest here, but aren't that bad, actually. Battleaxe's chemistry shines through solid riffs and hooking choruses that push these songs beyond middling hard rock-having the metallic elements in sight helps plenty, of course.

A fair number of these tunes are not just hooky or admirable, but knocking on the door of heavy metal excellence. "Fortune Lady" is my favorite here, easily. It is almost seven minutes of a mystical, epic ambience told through subtle bass lines, an excellent chorus, wonderful buildups, and ending on a blazing guitar solo. Working well to show more dynamics than just the rock scheme, this is jaw-dropping NWOBHM mastery. The lively "Chopper Attack" strikes hard with up-tempo riffs and a punch of steely vigor most of "Power from the Universe" skips over. I also like the title track a lot, what with the quick pace dropping to an addictive mid-paced section while juggling a children's choir, of all things. Usually a recipe for disaster, but used effectively here to actually justify its presence. I can count on one hand how many times I've seen this work; the number isn't very high, understandably.

The bonus tracks on SPV's reissue of "Power from the Universe" are beyond the usual filler-based arsenal of rehearsals or useless bootlegs pandering themselves around like they actually add an additional benefit to the overall release. Four tunes recorded in the mid-1980s-"Killer Woman," "Radio Thunder," "My Love's On Fire," and "Love Sick Man"-are the add-ons here, made relevant because they represent the band in a bygone time. "Killer Woman" is a huge up-tempo monster in the vein of Accept-meaty, gritty, punchy, mighty. The others are geared to match the more accessible rock elements, but are nowhere near redundant or asking to be trashed. In fact, these auxiliary songs echo the eminence and the dependability of "Power from the Universe" at large in a way most reissues don't even come close to grasping.

"Power from the Universe" is a swell piece of rock-orientated NWOBHM that holds a significant place in Battleaxe's role in British heavy metal lore. This is admirable stuff with the voltage of classic heavy metal alive and well, the thirty years between its birth and this reissue not affecting its power one iota.

Battleaxe - Power From the Universe Reissue
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