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3 stars A strangely disjointed mixture of hard rock, psychedelia and jazz fusion, this self-titled 1973 album was actually the Greek group's third overall, and the second to be named after the group. Although not too much is known about Axis, we do know that they were one of a number of Greek groups who moved to France sometime during the early 1970s, hoping to join up with the vibrant French music scene and hopefully win themselves a recording contract, though ultimately they failed to find true commercial success. Led by keyboardist-and-vocalist Demis Visvikis and also featuring Alexandros Fantis(bass), Chris Stassinopoulos(guitar) and George Hadjiathanassiou(drums), Axis' third album is considered by some to be one of Greece's all-time great prog-rock albums, though by their own admittance the Greek scene wasn't exactly large. Of course, you can't really have a discussion about Greek prog without bringing up the legendary Aphrodite's Child, home to Demis Roussous and Vangelis Papathanassiou, two of Greece's biggest musical exports and, later on, international stars in their own right. Like Aphrodite's Child's career-defining double-album '666', 'Axis' contains a plethora of styles, textures and tones, skipping enthusiastically between fusion-style flourishes and Canterbury-flecked organ runs to initially bemusing effect. Subsequent listens, however, reveal a talented quartet at work, and a slightly hard-rock edge that plays nicely off the album's fusion- dominated mid-section. Occasionally, the group do wander off into strange little musical side-streets, yet for the most they manage to carve out an interesting and mainly instrumental album. It may, then, take a little time to sink in, as multiple listens are required to truly grasp what is happening, but even then one shouldn't expect any great shakes. This is a good, interesting album, yet it doesn't quite manage to serve up any real, killer melodies or stand-out tunes for a supposedly 'lost classic'. If you liked '666' you'll dig 'Axis', though the album's fragmented nature may well put some listeners off. STEFAN TURNER, STOKE NEWINGTON, 2015
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Posted Friday, January 30, 2015 | Review Permalink
4 stars Similarly to their better-known countrymen, Aphrodite's Child, Axis were a Greek outfit, who moved to France, because of the right-wing regime in their motherland. The band was formed in 1970 by multiinstrumentalists Dimitris Katakouzinous and Demis Visvikis. In 1971, they released their debut album Ela Ela, which featured their take on a Greek folk standard of the same title. The work was heavily inspired by the contemporary psychedelic pop. 1972 marked the release of their self-titled album. One year later, Axis released another album by the name Axis, which was radically different than all their previous efforts, only to break up soon after.

The style of Axis' swansong shows strong influence of Canterbury scene bands such as Soft Machine, Egg, and Matching Mole, jazz-rock of Nucleus, Mahavishnu Orchestra or Keith Jarrett, free jazz of Sun Ra and Ornette Coleman, hard rock reminiscent of Uriah Heep and Free, and progressive rock of acts such as King Crimson. There are also some electronic parts that seem to owe a great deal to Can, Tangerine Dream, and Klaus Schulze. So far, so good, right? The elements of the previously mentioned groups seem to work especially well, creating an unclassifiable musical extract. The band's sound is characterized by rich instrumental layers, professional musicianship, and exceptionally clever detailing.

The instrumental abilities of Axis' members really deserve a mention. Demis Visvikis's keyboards play a crucial role in the band's sound. He goes from Thelonious Monk-inspired jazz on grand piano, to bulldozer-like fuzz organ, very much in the vein of Dave Stewart, to ambient Mellotron parts. Chris Stassinopoulos' guitar playing is versatile as well. He finds himself comfortable playing heavy rhythm guitar riffs and jazz guitar solos alike. These are supported by a very competent rhythm section of Dimitris Katakouzinos on bass, who is capable of phenomenal grooves and George Hadjiathanassiou on drums, who keeps up very well with the band's dynamic style.

There are ten tracks on Axis and I could easily say that every single one has its own distinct style. There is, however, a sort of inexplicable link between them that makes them sound alike and prevents the release from sounding inconsistent for that matter. The pieces go from hard rock-fueled 'Waiting A Long Time', to the ambient 'Sewers Down Inside', to free jazz-inspired 'Asymphonia', to majestic, liturgical 'Pa Vu Ga Di'. In short, the band makes great use of their record time, not limiting themselves to only one style.

Throughout its four-year career, Axis managed to release three albums. Their self-titled work from 1973 is their last and definitely their most accomplished effort. Its main characteristics are enormous eclecticism and near-to-flawless musicianship. With such a wide plethora of influences, it perhaps is not very innovative, but entertaining throughout and well-worth your time. Highly recommended for fans of obscure progressive rock and Canterbury scene!

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Posted Monday, May 23, 2016 | Review Permalink

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