Lillian Axe – From Womb To Tomb
Lillian Axe is a Louisiana-based heavy metal band formed in 1983. Their breakout was in the late 80s with their first two full-length studio albums, Lillian Axe and Love & War. From Womb To Tomb is their tenth studio release, and it comes a full decade after their previous offering. This album showcases the last 30-plus years with songs that sound like they’re from the classic era and some that are in a style not previously explored. Both the new and the nod to the old-school work well, creating a cohesive, comprehensive record that is sure to appeal to existing fans and capable of garnering new.
- Brent Graham – Lead Vocals
- Steve Blaze – Lead Guitar/Backing Vocals/Keyboards
- Sam Poitevent – Guitars/Vocals
- Michael “Maxx” Darby – Bass
- Wayne Stokely – Drums
From Womb To Tomb was released on August 19, 2022, via Global Rock Record https://www.globalrockrecords.com
- I Am Beyond
- Neverending Me (Dempsey’s Kick)
- The Golden Dragon
- Piercing The Veil
- Migrating North
- No Problem
- Dance Of The Maggots
- Fall Of The Human Condition
- The Great Deception
- Endless Green Fields
- Feelings Of Absinthe
- Finally, Clarity
- From The Mountaintops
Ten years after their last disc, Lillian Axe is back with 16 tracks that mix the old and new styles. Lillian Axe has grown and changed and adapted and matured over the last 39 years. The disc opens with “Breathe,” a song that begins with an ultrasound rendering of a heartbeat before a lone piano joins those sounds. The piano slowly picks up more speed, strings enter, and the rest of the band kicks in. the only lyrics are “breathe in the air,” and they fill the middle section of the track, handing off to a melodic guitar solo. The layered vocals are pretty stunning. The song crescendos and fades out with more guitar work and odd sound effects before finishing with church bells tolling.
The next song goes straight to heavy. The riff for “I Am Beyond” is beautiful. It chugs along, keeping time with the rhythm. The vocals enter clean and bright, lyrically covering a theme of growing, changing, adapting to being a higher level of human, enlightened. There are excellent vocalizations throughout that have some killer harmonized voices working together. There are multiple leads and solo sections for the guitar, as well as a melodic bridge that again brings in a piano. This song has so many epic parts to it. It is no wonder they chose it for the first single. It is, simply put, a great song.
“Neverending Me (Dempsey’s Kick)” starts with a piano and a voice. From there, it builds to something exciting and different. There are a few really good belted notes from Brent, then the riff goes to old-school Lillian Axe. The phrasing and patterns are almost off the first few albums through this section and bring back excellent memories of the early days. The song goes new-style as well, before going back to the past. This weaving together of past and present is heartwarming and provides hope for the future. This band will never stop evolving and becoming more, working to transcend the ordinary.
There are four songs that take less than four minutes to complete. “A” is the first of those. At 40 seconds, it is a brief interlude meant to help shift to the next section, which also contains both old and new style compositions. “Piercing The Veil,” “Endless Green Fields,” and “Finally, Clarity” are similarly structured, though “Finally, Clarity” is a more spoken word setting the stage for “From the Mountaintops.” The lyrics feel like they tie in together.
Going back to “The Golden Dragon,” this will surely be one of the fan favorites. Michael’s bass work on this one is stunning. His tone and how he mirrors the riff in some areas and hammers out a counterpart in others works so well in context. The guitars have an excellent chugging pattern, handling the foundation for the vocals. Wayne’s drumming is the perfect combination of slow pacing with killer fills to set the shifts of tempo and tone. This is one of the more complex, almost progressive songs. Some moments are not pure prog rock but tow that line very well. This is a song that shows nearly everything Lillian Axe has to offer.
“Piercing The Veil” now uses distorted guitar tones and odd sound effects to take us into “Migrating North.” Opening with piano and storm sounds, the voice comes in and continues the tone. Brent is the main focus of this track. His vocals go from low and calm to higher and more dramatic. He absolutely crushes this song. The layering of his voice over itself in multiple ways carries the song from the lone piano to the massive riff across the bridge. The dropout to the solitary, dissonant piano note is a beautiful end, halting the song as only that note could.
While “Migrating North” has the tempo of a ballad, the tone is not right. “No Problem” makes up for that by going full power ballad. The guitars support the vocals the way the lyrics promise the person being spoken to that they will always be cared for and loved.
Now we turn to the most epic song on the disc, “Dance of The Maggots.” Gregorian chants form the intro before the guitar comes in quietly, with killer bass notes moving and shifting underneath. When the full instrumentation kicks in, you get a newer Lillian Axe track, though the transitions from peaceful to heavy are a bit more old-school. The backing vocals and choirs indicate more to come from the song, and we get that near the four-minute mark when a classic Steve Blaze riff comes surging into power through that section. Another drop, with the sound of flies zipping around in the background, gives the lull that allows for the next build that leads to one of Blaze’s best solos on this record. Like “The Golden Dragon,” this song highlights everything Lillian Axe has become.
While this album does have a theme of being about current issues, “Fall Of The Human Condition” seems to be more poignant concerning the separation society is experiencing, or maybe I’m just a cynic. The track is a mid-tempo rocker with a more melodic feel to the riff and rhythm. The vocal delivery is metered and quite excellent. The line “all rise for the fall of the human condition” reminds me of watching the world shift into polarized camps, fighting each other and trying to outdo each other but making no progress because they refuse to do the “bidding” of the other. The punctuation mark on this track is the shredding guitar solo that ties the two groups together.
“The Great Deception” opens slowly with a guitar that ushers in the rest of the instruments. We again have a mid-tempo track. The vocals are lower in the register until the kick at the one-minute mark, then they go full belting power. That heavy section offsets the slower areas, giving space for the “deception” to be highlighted vocally and musically.
“Endless Green Fields” is a neo-classical acoustic guitar track that transitions to “Feelings Of Absinthe,” a heavier tune with some excellent lead guitar work that highlights the riff well. The bass and drums spend some time in lockstep together to propel the song forward beautifully. Lyrically, this song is an epic journey of truth and discovery. Musically, it’s the same, especially when the extended guitar solo takes us through several phrases, going through valleys before peaking at the crescendo.
“Finally, Clarity” is a spoken word song with a piano for ambiance. It sets the stage for “From the Mountaintops” as a prelude to what is coming. The gentle piano tones, followed by the subdued vocals, are just the first step in what is coming from this track. The vocals rise in tone and volume, setting up the entry of the entire band. The power is then unleashed, bringing the song to its’ fullest potential. The rhythm is a pounding powerhouse, the vocals go from rapid-fire to modulated, and the guitars chug out a brilliant riff. The choir, the bombastic music, everything works to make this song feel like understanding has been achieved. The solo at the crescendo is, in a word, eloquent.
“Ascension” is the final track on the disc, closing out this new chapter of Lillian Axe. It is an uplifting song that lets the listener end on a positive note. We started being helped to “Breathe,” then went on this epic trek through the songs, and now realize we have arrived at a higher plane of existence. We have climbed the mountain and ascended to where this journey was meant to end. Together, “we will be one.”
Lillian Axe has transcended. They are beyond. Better than ever, they match the music and lyrics to each other, adding transitional songs and keeping everything wrapped into neat little packages. These elegant compositions form those miniature sonic groupings. As with any epic journey, there are tribulations, which we faced in the middle section of this most excellent record.
This whole album, while not strictly a concept album, has a theme. We begin by preparing for the trip, start the journey, face the trials, and then overcome at the end to achieve our own personal peace. While there is always a struggle, we surmount this and come out enlightened on the other side. There is a feeling of personal growth on this record. Lillian Axe took us on this epic journey with them and helped us to realize we are capable and worthy of “Ascension.” We can be happy, content, and victorious.
- Guitars – 10
- Rhythms – 10
- Vocals – 10
- Songwriting – 10
- Production – 10
- Overall – 10.00