Guitarist Bill Menchen and vocalist Simon Tyler (Keith Miles) aslo form the nucleus of Titanic.

Final Axe Final Axe - Beyond Hell's Gates (Retroactive Records) 2004

1. "Baptized in Blood" (2:43)
2. "Are You Ready?" (2:46)
3. "No Time to Die" (2:55)
4. "Soldiers of Compromise" (4:16)
5. "Blind Faith" (3:00)
6. "Close to Deliverance" (2:07)
7. "Thrown in the Fire" (3:04)
8. "Don't Run Away" (3:33)
9. "War Cry" (2:41)
10. "Rated X" (3:24)

Final Axe were formed from the ashes of Holy Right in the late 80's and became one of those underground cult bands that everyone thought sure would sign with a label and gain major success. Instead the band chose to self- release "Beyond Hell's Gates" on cassette. Unforutnately, despite rave reviews the tape quickly went out of print and became a highly sought after collector's item, especially by Christian metal fans. Well in 2004 Retroactive Records re-released this classic on CD. "Beyond Hell's Gates" features the powerhouse vox of Keith Miles (aka Simon Tyler) as well as some scorching guitar work by Bill Menchen. Together they craft some fine old school, Christian heavy metal along the same lines as Armored Saint, Sword and even at times pushing the borders of speed metal not unlike early Metal Church. Songs like "Baptized in Blood" are just downright heavy! Surprisingly, for a low budget, independent recording, the production isn't band. Apparently the band felt the original cassette release was lacking, so the Retroactive Records version of "Beyond Hell's Gates" has been completely reworked and remixed while still retaining that classic 80's sound. Bill Menchen and Keith Miles would later team up to form the band Titanic.

Axe of the Apostles Final Axe - The Axe of the Apostles (Retroactive Records) 2006

1. "Head Will Roll" (3:19)
2. "Burn in Hell" (4:05)
3. "Ball and Chain" (4:04)
4. "Hanging by a Thread" (3:07)
5. "Dealing with Death" (3:17)
6. "Vengeance Is Mine" (5:01)
7. "Slaves" (4:35)
8. "Metal Missionaries" (3:02)
9. "We're Not Heroes" (4:27)
10. "World's Away" (3:03)

Fists to the sky, headbanging, leather-clad, American heavy metal! "The Axe of the Apostle" marks the return of underground 1980's metal band Final Axe and the realization of a long lost album. Apparently this album was recorded in 1990 but never finished. Finally in 2006, thanks in part to Retrospective Records, Final Axe along with Stryper's Robert Sweet finished the album. "The Axe of the Apostles" is pure heavy metal with a big nod to the early 80's New Wave of British Metal bands, not unlike bands like Armored Saint, Saint, or early Riot. Crunchy guitars, headbanging riffs, guitar solos, sing-along choruses, and the whole nine yards. It brings me back to the days when we were all discovering bands on compilations like "Metal Massacre", "U.S. Metal" and "California Metal". The production isn't exactly top notch by today's metal standards, but isn't bad either. Actually the raw guitar sound and punchy drums add to the overall appeal of the album. I've read some complaints on some of the various metal discussion boards that this CD is "generic". I'm not exactly sure what is generic about it. Sure, this isn't the mish-mash of metal styles that many of today's bands attempt in a desperation to sound 'creative', but for a good 'ol healthy dose of classic heavy metal, this hits the spot. Fans of Saint, Neon Cross, Messiah Prophet and Cross should eat this up.

Beyond Hell's Gate Final Axe - Beyond Hell's Gate (Collector's Edition) (Retroactive) 2010

1. Beyond the Gate [intro] (1:35)
2. Baptized In Blood (2:36)
3. Are You Ready? (2:42)
4. No Time To Die (3:07)
5. Soldier of Compromise (4:14)
6. Blind Faith (2:58)
7. Area 51 [instrumental] (1:54)
8. Close To Deliverance (2:07)
9. Thrown In the Fire (3:19)
10. Don't Run Away (3:27)
11. War Cry (2:55)
12. Rated X (3:24)
13. Eternity [outro] (:45)

Final Axe's "Beyond Hell's Gate" is considered a classic by many fans of underground heavy metal. The band was formed from the ashes of Holy Right and gained quick success in the underground metal scene in the early-to-mid 1990's. The original cassette tape issue is a rare collector's item to this day. The album was later reissued by Retroactive Records in 2004, much to the delight of this fan who had never heard the album until the CD was officially released. The band's sound was reminiscent of classic heavy metal bands such as Omen, Sword and Helix. Unfortunately, the CD was also pressed in limited supply and it too quickly went out of print. In 2010 Retroactive has again re-issued "Beyond Hell's Gate", only this time with many changes. The first and most immediately noticeable is the updated artwork. As cheesy as the original artwork was, I always liked it. It has that classic metal feel to it, whereas the new cover has more of a modern feel.

The other big change is that the albums was remixed, remastered, and partially re-recorded. Metal purists may immediately be turned off by this fact. While the original recording did have a raw 80's feel to it, and the drums sounded a bit thin, there is a certain amount of charm and nostalgia that goes along with a classic album. As such, I definitely understand the purist attitude about re-recording, and am quite frankly one myself.

However, I approached "Beyond Hell's Gate (Collector's Edition)" with an open mind. One of my favorite drummers, Robert Sweet of Stryper, has re-recorded all the drums on the album. Say what you will about Stryper, but they definitely had a sound and style that was all their own. Sweet's drum style is certainly present on this new recording. Some songs, take on a whole different feel. The song that opened the original CD, for instance, now is quite different thanks to a short album intro and the deletion of the opening drum roll. "Close To the Deliverance" now opens with the drums, whereas the original recording started with a both the guitars and drums in a fast speed metal assault. The drum work is certainly improved over the original. The guitar tone is noticeably different as well. The guitars were most likely recorded digitally, so when remixing they just picked a completely different tone. The new edition features a fatter, more modern tone. Also adding to the slightly more modern tone is some additional effects, such as those used on the opening of "Thrown in Fire". Frankly, I found this distracting as it takes away from the classic metal feel of the album.

This new recording also features material not on the original. Alongside the intro titled "Beyond the Gate" and the short outro titled "Eternity", there is also an instrumental titled. "Area 51". This song is really odd and probably should have been put at the end of the CD as a bonus track. This techno sounding track is basically a drum solo with some odd noises and effects added. The song does showcase Sweet's drumwork, but just seems to stick out like a sore thumb with the other tracks.

Denim and leather clad headbangers may be slightly put off by the re-recording and oddball instrumental, but overall, the improved production, heavier guitar tone and new drum work prove to make this an interesting listen and a worthwhile purchase.

Related Collections:
Titanic | Stryper | Seventh Power | Redeemer

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