When a local band forms, its mission is to achieve something that stands out within its peer group. Jacksonville’s AXIOM—incidentally, a word that means “truism”—hopes that something is honesty and heart. Which doesn’t mean the six-piece metal outfit doesn’t rock. The music is heavy, blunt and up-front, but the players consider themselves a family, and they have a desire to share the stage with their community. These musicians take pride in making each other and every audience member feel as if they are part of something bigger.
The AXIOM fam spoke with Folio Weekly about their new full-length album, Portraits of Tomorrow, which drops this week. It’s been a few years in the making. No surprise, AXIOM has changed since its debut 2016 EP, Slave to the System. The dueling distorted guitars of Easton Ray and Justin Ignacio remain, but now AXIOM boasts dueling voices as well. Founding vocalist Austin Fadley’s throaty growl is complemented by his wife Jamie’s haunting, high-pitched wail. It’s a match made in heaven, according to drummer Ryan Schleifer: “On the last album, we only had one vocal, so we were very limited in what we could do. Now with two vocalists, we can add harmony.”
Bassist Skip Green has helped the AXIOM sound evolve, too. “I personally experimented with some new sounds on the bass, so it’s not just distorted and heavy,” he told Folio Weekly. “There is quite a bit more melody as far as the bass goes.”
Portraits is a leap forward for the band, and they’re excited to get it out into the world. While the sound is still rooted in metal, AXIOM experimented with the formula in an attempt to balance space and weight, instrumental and vocal passages, cleans and screams. Above all, they allowed themselves the time to get it right.
“With this album, we had room to try different parts and change things,” Ray explained. “We would take, like, a month for each song and let it breathe.”
Among the album’s highlights is “Hollow Pain,” an intimate track with special meaning for Austin Fadley. “Slave to the System was a very angry album,” the vocalist said, “but this one is a lot more personal. I think this album will reach people in a different way than our last album did. [“Hollow Pain”] in particular is a tribute to one of my best friends in the whole world, who died in 2017.”
The CD’s lead single, “The Wretched,” is a stomper complete with a certified-metal promotional video. The visuals go hand-in-hand with the music, with the band performing in front of a giant outdoor fire pit as myriad witches prepare a sacrifice. Spoiler alert: The sacrifice is Jamie Fadley, who seems to be just fine in the end (despite the blood and gore).
AXIOM’s album release show doubles as a hard-rock festival of sorts, featuring several fellow Jax metal outfits: Crypteria, A Matter of Honor, Strangled to Death and Shadow the Earth (OK, that last one is from North Central Florida). The lineup is a cross-section of rock and metal subgenres, from metalcore to prog. Music is the highlight of the show, but there are many other aspects, too. “It’s not just a concert,” Schleifer said. “It’s more like a 4/20 party that we happen to be releasing our album at.”
Portraits of Tomorrow finds AXIOM in rare form and ready to play. Sideshow performer Andrew Ratliff is set to appear between musical sets. The Jacksonville entertainer has earned a reputation for fire-breathing and sleight-of-hand. “He’s a crazy escape artist,” said Fadley. “He’ll be doing some insane juggling with lasers, knives and things like that.”