MAXXWELL – Metalized

When I saw the link for this album in my mail-box, my first thought was that someone must have sent me the wrong link. Maxxwell? Isn’t that a dance/hip-hop type of artist? Hmmm. Well, it’s not, the artist I thought of spells his name with one x – and he blows dog! Still, the name is confusing and to be honest, Maxxwell isn’t all that great a name for a band. Next up, the cover art for the record – it’s ugly as fuck. Third, the title Metalized is a bit too much Heavy Metal cliché for comfort. So had it not been for this download link, not very much speaks for me having checked out this lot at all. And there’s more – in the press release I could read that the band had decided to modernize their sound and that they had left their Rock sound to be more modern Metal – “more Five Finger Death Punch and In Flames and less AC/DC and Accept”. To me, a huge no-no so things didn’t look good at all from the start. But I would put all that aside and listen to the record with an open mind.

But back to the band. Maxxwell comes from Switzerland, the home of bands like Gotthard and Krokus, and were formed in 2006. They have released three albums prior to the release of the new one – Dogz On Dope (2009), All In (2011) and Tabula Rasa (also the name of a brilliant Dutch TV-series – strongly recommended) (2014) which was the first one to feature current lead singer Gilberto Melendéz. The rest of the line-up is as follows: Hef Häfliger and Cyril Montavon (guitars), Adrian Müller (bass) and Oli Häller (drums). Since the start, Maxxwell have been a hard-working band – this new album took four years of hard work to complete – and have been touring a lot, opening for bands such as Doro, Michael Schenker’s Temple Of Rock, U.D.O. and Shakra. They even played a prison i Rottsburg for free. If that’s not dedication, I don’t know what is. The question now is, how do they sound? And are they any good?

They open with “Hurricane”, an uptempo, heavy and aggressive Metal track that totally kicked me so hard I ended up in next week. The bouncy verses are a fist in the jaw, raw and ready to do some harm while the refrain brings on some high-octane catchiness without losing any of the heaviness. Wow. What a killer! “Back Again” brings on a stomping and heavy Metal groove, hard and beefy with a good punch! The chorus’ big melody line is highly addictive and sure, I can hear some modern Metal in here but to my ears, this is very much influenced by classic Metal but with a modern touch – and it’s a damn good track. “P.U.T.V.” stands for Pump Up The Volume and is not a cover of M.A.R.R.S. crap song from 1987, thank you very much. It’s a fast tempoed, heavy, aggressive and in-your-face Metal track with a modern twist to it. Memorable melodies share space with heaviness and a catchy refrain that would fit modern Rock radio like a glove – very good.

Latest single “She’s Mine” is up next and it’s really a metalized (sic!) Pop song, an obvious choice for a single. The tune may be Pop but it’s still not without heaviness and it’s a really bouncy rocker with a big, intense groove and a refrain so catchy it hurts. Yes, it really flirts with modern radio-rock but it doesn’t matter because it’s a magnificent song. And it screams HIT! “Scars” is a Heavy Metal ballad – dark, heavy and wrathful yet with smooth, melodic and very memorable melodies and on top of that a huge chorus that’s so damn catchy it will most likely result in a hit for the band – if released as a single. So why isn’t it a single yet? As a sucker for power ballads, I embraced this pearl of a song instantly. First single, the title-track is a Metal-bomb with riffs highly influenced by Judas Priest but also more modern stuff like Disturbed comes to mind. It’s a kicking and biting heavy tune that name-drops titles by classic Metal and Hard Rock bands throughout the song. Killer!

And speaking of classic Metal riffing, in this case Accept comes to mind, “Monsterball” is a heavy, punchy and in-your-face Metal blaster, tough and angry but with contagious melodies everywhere. I do hear some Five Finger Death Punch in here but for some reason I don’t mind. I don’t have much love for FFDP but still I dig this. Weird but I guess Maxxwell just pulls stuff like this off. “Burn” is a fierce, fat, heavy and very groove-laden Metal stomper with both attitude and aggression. The highly memorable chants of the refrain will definitely set fire to any live gig of theirs. It’s not single-catchy by any means but the chorus do stick – brilliant! The modern Metal transformation comes across most on “Done With You”, a faster paced, quite driven stomper full of modern, radio-friendly Metal melodies which means that it will probably be a single in the future. It might just result in a hit for the band but I’m not convinced by it, it’s too obvious for comfort.

The slower “Give It All” is more of a Metal ballad and while it’s quite memorable it just feels like it’s a too obvious flirtation with rock-radio, like it was written purposely for that and the tune stands out like a sore thumb on this album. It’s ok but easily the weakest one so far. “The Temple” is another sore thumb here and stands out for other reasons. This one is more of a plain Hard Rock track albeit with a good dose of punch and heaviness. It’s very rich on memorable melodies and contains more hooks than a fisherman’s hat. It also contains a softer, ballad-laden middle-break that makes the tune even more dynamic. Great. Closing track “Raise Your Fist” is a furious, fast and raw Thrash influenced riff-happy Metal monster. It’s fast and aggressive but never short of melodies and even though the chorus might walk on the modern side of Metal, this tune is built upon classic Metal – a worthy closer.

If you get the deluxe edition, there are three more songs for you. “Independent” brings on some chugging guitars, a heavy pumping rhythm and a whole lot of Pop-laden melodies and even some Death Metal grunts. It’s a good, heavy track that goes for the throat. “Queen Of The Night” is an uptempo Hard Rock tune with traces of both Metal and Melodic Rock – the refrain even sports a slight AOR vibe on top of the plain Hard Rock. A brilliant tune! “Schizophrenia” is also more Hard Rock than Metal even though it do contain a Metal twist. It holds a bouncy and stompy groove where the verses are a bit more laid-back and reminds me of 80’s Hard Rock – Gotthard comes to mind (yes, I know they’re a 90’s band) – and the refrain is a bit on the modern side with a big Pop-laden refrain. Very good. I would definitely go for the deluxe version here.

Once again, I think to myself – never judge a book by the cover (or a band by their name). So yes, this album has its modern twists but not as many as I thought after reading the press release. The base here is classic Metal and at some points regular Hard Rock, still more Judas Priest, Accept and Saxon than Five Finger Death Punch and Pop Evil, so to speak. When it comes to writing effective and catchy choruses, memorable melodies and bad-ass riffs, these guys sure knows what they’re doing – and the fact they are metal heads shines through for miles. What could have been better, though, is the production. Sure, it’s big, fat, hard, heavy and in-your-face but it’s also a bit too compressed and it doesn’t really breathe. A typical modern Metal production made more for smart-phones than CD or vinyl, in other words. Still, I think Metalized is damn good record over-all, a record I won’t stop playing anytime soon.

8/10

Tracklist:

1. Hurricane
2. Back Again
3. P.U.T.V.
4. She’s Mine
5. Scars
6. Metalized
7. Monsterball
8. Burn
9. Done With You
10. Give It All
11. The Temple
12. Raise Your Fist
13. Independent (Bonus Track)
14. Queen Of The Night (Bonus Track)
15. Schizophrenia (Bonus Track)

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