There’s a Japanese pop band called Shonen Knife I used to love as a kid. They produced album after album of punchy, grunty rock tunes about ice creams and going to the toy store and seeing cute boys. I had to order their albums from these insane asian importers because none of the music shops could get them, but it was worth it.
When I listen to The Girl with the Axe, the new album from NZ axewoman Denni Elizabeth, I’m reminded of the style of my favorite chick rock band. Denni’s not from Japan, and she definitely doesn’t write about ice creams, but she’s defintiely got the chops to create a punchy album of rock songs.
The songs have a classical structure, the riffs energetic and upbeat, the solos technical and well-executed. Songs like “Rise Through” and “Late too Soon” lead in immediately with old school riffs – you can hear Iommi influences (especially on “Late Too Soon”) as well as Marty Friedman and the Maiden boys. “No More Silent Nights” – my favorite song on the album – has a real Iron Maiden, “fear of the dark” feel in the riffs.
Denni’s vocals are truly unique, and were the basis for my comparison to Shonen Knife. Rough-edged, high and smoke-tinged – there’s no pretense of church choirs or private-school vocal coaching here. The songs themselves are about things that matter – guitars, sex and rock’n’roll. With the clean style, the listener pays more attention to the lyrics, which – unusal for a female artist – are often quite explicit. There’s no poetry here, just classic metal swagger.
Being a solo project of a talented guitarist, this is obviously an album with the guitar dominates, and because of this, sections of the music sound hollow – drums and bass are definitely in the background. Filling out the songs with more interesting dynamics from other instruments might have produced a more polished sound. As it is, the rougher production only heightens the “old-school” qualities of the album.
If you’re in any doubt about this girl’s ability to whip out a killer solo, check out “Rise Through”, “Late too Soon” and “Corporate Obscene” for some wicked solos.
The Girl with the Axe is Denni’s second album, the follow-up to 2010’s Winterdawn. You can hear tracks from the album on the Denni Elizabeth Myspace Page , and check out her Facebook page for updates and shows.