The more things change, and all that. But remember back in the day when your favourites would release a single you’d queue up in the record shop, and excitedly bring it home? The modern-day equivalent is YouTube, I guess, but still, when AX7 stuck out “Nobody” a few months ago, it was clear that this was a brave new world. First of all, you heard it and went, “wow! Ok,” then you listened to it again, and thought, “it’s a grower, this,” and then you start to love it. Just like you used to do with those singles back in the day.

The aforementioned “Nobody” has riffs that are huge, as are the melodies, just like AX7 always did, but well, there’s something new here. This is not business as usual; it’s not supposed to be. This is AX7 announcing themselves for the first time in seven years – and why should they be the same as they were in 2016? Nothing else is, is it?

“Game Over” brings incredibly expensive, sprawling, prog heaviness that showcases the band’s desire to move forwards. “Mattel” features M. Shadows singing, “my vinyl skin provides protection, it holds in place my plastic bones,” revealing a poetic side of him, that perhaps you’ve never heard before. But there’s also a burst of heavy, almost to prove they can. Moreover, there’s a cinematic feel, like AX7 in wide-screen.

Nowhere is this brave new world better shown than on the astonishingly varied “We Love You.” It’s like three songs in one, never bothered about matching. Somehow, it works. Should we be surprised that they are pushing the envelope? AX7 has made a career out of that. It’s just here they are turbo-charging it.

The acoustic ballad “Cosmic” appropriately soars high, and before its crescendo, there’s a touch of Coheed And Cambria about it. “Beautiful Morning” touches the “classic sound,” if you will, but “Easier” is the perfect example of 2023, and “G” leans more towards Spock’s Beard than metal, but the vocals are unsettling. “Ordinary” on the other hand, is anything but.

“(D)eath” seems to roll the credits, the soundtrack to whatever film is playing in the collective heads here, and “Life Is But A Dream” (the song) is perfect for the “Life Is But A Dream” (the album) given that it’s a piano concerto, basically, and you weren’t expecting it. Like you weren’t expecting any of this.

Make no mistake about it, AX7 are a big deal. Arena botherers all around the world with the show to match. I saw one of those type of bands play live this past week. And let’s be honest, the so-called “hottest band in the world” phoned it in; it was safe, it was boring.

Basically, it was everything “Life Is But A Dream” is not. This album is brave, it is bold – and give it a few listens – and it’s absolutely brilliant too.

Rating: 9/10

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