Ax: Metal Forest

Cold Spring knows how to send promos, like really, guy always has since we started to branch into noise a few years ago.  Full inserts, real discs, and one-sheets with everything you need to know about the release in question.  Labels and bands could learn a thing or two about that...we're just throwing that out there, you know, so maybe we don't have to spend hours looking up something that's still on Myspace for some reason.  Ax is the project of Anthony Di Franco, who's had his hand in several acts including legendary Skullflower.  The cover, awesome, and the concept, representative, as representative as it gets.  And what does it represent?  Metal Forest is an example of good noise, the kind of noise modern noise "musicians" need to listen to, repeatedly, to realize why it is they suck so horribly.  Now, don't cry, it's going to be okay...actually it's not, because what is now Metal Forest was released, in three different parts, in the mid and late 1990s.  That's right, this stuff is old, but it proves what noise was doing back then, making things called albums that had something else called substance.  Can you believe it?  Well, in case you didn't, Ax had this nice re-release put together, with songs taken from three previous releases on vinyl, digitally remastered so you can hear with absolute clarity how much you suck in comparison.

 

So the title pretty much summarizes everything, because Metal Forest does indeed sound like a forest made out of metal with wind rattling its sharpened leaves and clacking together its tin limbs.  Most harsh noise, especially the terrible variety, well usually terrible, referred to as 'harsh noise wall' (or simply HNW for the cool), likes to ruin your ears with simplistic structures we've all heard countless times, and absolutely no thought put into it.  White feedback, some microphone feedback thrown through a couple random pedals, guitar feedback since they can't play in the first place and now have an excuse to use an instrument, that's what you should be used to anymore, and bands like this are sadly, and typically, the norm.  What happened to the artistry of noise?  Is it really so difficult to think up a concept and go with it instead of trying to draw attention with costumes and fake blood you toss around the crowd so we all ignore how bad what you're doing really is?  Who was the first noise "musician" to cart around the suitcase of pedals?  General rule of thumb, if you see more than five pedals, they're going to have no clue what they're doing with any of them.

 

But Ax knows exactly what he's doing.  Metal Forest contains all of the high-quality, harsh noise you could hope for in a lesser-known musician, at least in terms of comparing him to Masonna or Merzbow.  What he's done here is find a way to legitimately use all of these sounds, these sweeps of electronics and static, as instruments, in a way, as colors used on an overall canvas instead of random things to be thrown around, thinking that chaos is the way to go.  It's not, the chaos is present within the noise itself, but you need to know how to use it if you're going to get anywhere.  And Ax clearly knew what he was doing.  Noise here is layering with structure, bass bursts creating awesome drone presence and sound patterns that call to mind exactly what the some of song titles suggest, such as "Heavy Fluid" or "Metal Forest".  The rest all fits into the general theme he's created here, and throughout the entirety of Metal Forest you can almost imagine yourself going through a forest of metal, various metallic protrusions you encounter and how they'd actually sound.  One or two reviewers out there approached this as if it were another hipster act of revulsion, though acknowledging its age, clearly not understanding the inventive sounds to be found herein.  Sometimes, older is better, and some day, Ax will likely be considered 'classic noise'.  You can check out some samples in the link provided above, but otherwise you're going to have to buy it to check it all out and experience it for yourself.  Unfortunately there isn't a fan page or official page for the band on Facebook, or anywhere for that matter, but feel free to check out Cold Spring, whose official page we've provided immediately following this review.

 

Cold Spring Official Site

Written by Stanley Stepanic

Ax: Metal Forest
Cold Spring Records
4.5 / 5