Bella Pacifica by Axis Of

Release date: April 22, 2022
Label: No Dancing Records

Some bands have their influences well-worn on their sleeves. Their music informed by other bands and artists to the extent of feeling you’ve heard this one before. Northern Irish band Axis Of are different. For one thing, they sound like nobody else I can think of and their primary influence is the stunning scenery of their country’s north coast, where they all hail from. This is most evident when you listen to their third album Bella Pacifica. Since their first two albums were released, band members have travelled further afield, to Australia and Canada, for example. The journeys the individual band members (Niall Lawlor – guitar and vocals, Ewen Friers – bass and vocals, Ethan Harman – percussion and vocals, Chris Wee plays drums on this album) in both physical and mental form have provided the inspiration for this superbly uplifting album.

The band decided to take some time away from Axis Of, after The Mid Brae Inn. But for Niall, this down time was seriously impacted by prolonged ill-health after an innocuous fall in Canada led to a reliance on medication resulting in his mental health deteriorating to the extent he withdrew from work, friends, music and life. Thankfully, Niall had the inner reserves to pull through and he sent Ewen some demos he had worked on in a snow-covered cabin. It was these early recordings that would become Bella Pacifica. The two worked together, gradually so as not to overwhelm, and here we are now with this fully formed album of outstanding tunes and in these times of trouble, undeniable hope. Completed on a remote Scottish Island, Niall explains that the album “has sad songs…but it is hopeful that there can be good times again”. He also adds that in terms of what success the album might have, “The success is existing in the first place”.

I for one am thrilled it does exist because this is the band’s finest work yet. Opening with the demo sounding fake start of ‘Raven’s Nest’, the song explodes into life with raucous energy. It’s so good to have Axis Of back making music as there isn’t anyone else I know who combines super punky riffs and wondrous gang vocals the way they do. I love the little references to remote places and adventure. You know that all the lyrics have big meaning to the band even though they might not all make sense to the listener. This band are utterly unique, every note is a joy.

The itchy guitar that flickers underneath ‘Beach Light’ is all vibrant urgency yet the overall swagger of the song is much more laid back. The tune here is a dangerous earworm, I’ve been singing it since hearing it. The chorus of “Please let the sand run through our hands…” takes me away up to the North Coast where the band hail from, one of my favourite parts of the world. I think that’s why I connect with this band the way I do. Ewen strains for those impossible high notes and it adds to the might of the song. The guitar solos at the end are just pure bliss, what a tune!

Based on a two note siren wail guitar, ‘Alpine Way’ song is a total ripsnorter, bursting with confidence and joy. The chorus tumbles out on a thunderous clatter of beats and mighty shouts, tectonic plates shudder when you nudge the volume up some more, and you will! An epic guitar line washes through ‘Little Squamish’ like waves crashing, and the track ebbs and flows like the sea. This is widescreen music perfect for windswept days on the beach staring at stormy seas. A stunning guitar melody leaps out at you to introduce the outstanding title track ‘Bella Pacifica’, the chorus of which is total bliss, as the layered voices soar with ecstatic wonder. The trumpets that lead into the awesome sky-scraping guitar solo at the end are a delicate and loving touch.


Layers of superb guitar melodies all interweave on the snappy ‘Blackcomber’. As it zips along at hyper speed taking the odd breather for a twitchy chorus, the final moments bring back in those trumpet blasts and you can’t help but grin from ear to ear. ‘Lost Lakes’ has a big swaggering chorus that shoots for, and captures, several stars on its upwards trajectory. I do like a song that starts with the chorus. The staccato verse of ‘Skaha Behemoths’ is one of the few times on the album that isn’t mostly full-on throw everything into the mix. ‘San Juan Renfrew’ features some cooing harmonies that slope into a proud chorus that has some serious crunch and heft with a booming bass and all-consuming riffs. The epic finale is pure euphoria with some searing guitar lines.

The roaring ‘Millar’s Ridge’ has a propulsive groove that is sure to ensure some serious pogoing at any gigs. The layered voice throughout are perfectly positioned, showing a real knowhow for dynamics. This band have made so much progress since their early records that hinted at where they could go, now fully realised with maturity. I’ve no doubt that Ewen’s work as Catalan! has given him inspiration to be more panoramic with the extra musical flourishes. On closer ‘Okan Set’, Ewen’s bass slips like an eel in soap and the there’s a sprightly keyboard melody weaving its way in the mix. The dynamics of the song jump and flit from idea to idea but it sounds so connected. There’s a myriad of hooks dropping throughout, it’s breath-taking how many different melodies that just keep coming.

This album has so much energy mere words cannot convey to you the unbridled joy this music brings to the listener. You have to hear it, to fully appreciate how these guys can transform what they see, into sound. Every song attacks with fervour and no-one holds back with their playing. The combined voices of Ewen and Niall are a delight as they roar and holler the punky chants then reign themselves in for some marvellous melodic moments. The songs are devilishly addictive and you cannot help but sing along. Bella Pacifica has come along at just the right time, we all need a lift from the eternal shitshow that modern life keeps throwing at us. It is truly a great, life affirming album and it’s great to have Axis Of back.

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