A Prog Odyssey: Divine by Axl Album Review

by Austin Donnelly

DISCLAIMER: I am good friends with the guy who made this album. He even used one of my guitars to record a song on this album. However, I will try to be as unbiased as possible for this review.

Over the past few years I’ve been delving into progressive rock/metal a bit more, and I have come to realize that it is really difficult to make progressive music that is actually listenable. There are plenty of artists who just make weird songs for the sake of being weird and it doesn’t come out as listenable. That’s not the case for “Divine” by Axl though.

This album may not have any vocals, but it doesn’t need them. Axl speaks through his guitar. For this being his first release, the guitar playing is spot on and extraordinary. From the blistering solos to the huge and dominating riffs, the guitar playing is never a weak point. Take the song “Phantasm” for example. After an eerie intro with a great bass groove, the huge guitars come in like an army of nightmarish ghouls. Then before you know it, you already have your first solo. It may be a little short, but it’s just a taste of what’s to come later. As well as the guitars, the bass is also a standout. The tone is fat and clear without overtaking the guitar shredding.

The song “Serpents” is another highlight. It shies away from the weird time signatures that appear throughout most of the album and is very effective at just being an all-out jam of a song. Then, after the album being turned up to eleven for the first three songs, “In Time” has some welcome dynamic breaks. The reverb on the clean guitar in the verses is haunting and very effective. Then the song goes back to being a prog jam for the second half of the song.

I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the 10 minute long epic of a title track. The acoustic guitar in the beginning is beautiful and is a nice parallel to what’s to come later in the track. Probably the best solo on the album lives on this track about halfway through. Then the riff towards the end kicks in and makes for a triumphant finale to a great song.

However, the album isn’t perfect and I do have some problems with it. Even though the prog elements do work most of the time, they don’t always. Most of the time it’s just a riff here or there that sounds too wonky to groove to. The song Eternal Absurdity is an example of this. The first main riff comes in and it just really doesn’t work, but later in the song there are genuinely great moments. The songs also seems to lack a destination and at times doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Another slight nitpick is that some of these songs can probably have 30 seconds shaved off of them and still be fine. A few of these are just a bit too repetitive at times to justify their run times. The last little problem I have is that “Phantasm” works as a better opener to the album than “Odyssey” does. The dark intro to “Phantasm” is a lot more effective than the stark intro to “Odyssey.”

All in all, for his first release, this album is a great start to what has the potential to be an amazing career. There are some great ideas here and with more experience, Axl could have a metal masterpiece in his future. I recommend you give it a listen, especially if you’re a UTSA student, because we have some amazing talents at our school that don’t get enough credit.

Rating: 7/10

Favorite songs: Phantasm, The King, Serpents

Least favorite songs: Eternal Absurdity, Odyssey

Spotify link: https://open.spotify.com/album/2qiQ752OBDg8uQg630p9co?si=Z40Ngq8YSOS1hsBbMhiRrQ

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