Arx – Ordo Ab Pax

Ordo Ab Pax, released in 2013, is the debut album from Gauteng, South African progressive thrash metal outfit, Arx.

arx album cover

The band has an engaging, melodic extreme metal sound, a bit reminiscent (but not derivative) of Dark Tranquillity or later In Flames. The album ranges from instrumental, to thrash, to ‘hatecore’ bordering on death metal. There is loud, pure energy and in-your-face raw talent on show here. The riffing is heavy and very aggressive, with a melodic, bright, nice attack. Production is digitally crisp, and ‘loud enough’ for clear listening on an average sound system. The album does have a ‘sameness’ to it’s ten tracks – the mood is consistent or really doesn’t change much. Most of the tunes fall in to a mid-tempo range.

Most of the songs feature a clean ‘sung’ vocal line in addition to a ‘hateful’ type – exceptions include “Ordo Ab Pax”, and “Nebula”, an instrumental. The tune “Inner Voice” showcases the vocal style clearly. Bands like Dimmu Borgir were exploring the clean and hateful vocal duality back around 2002 – 2003, so it’s nice to hear this Randburg band carrying that torch forward. A couple of the tunes (“World Lobotomy”, “Lost”) have a fresh harmony line in the guitar parts. Overall, the album presents us with a variety of fresh ideas, and goes through a lot of notes!

Criticism: Vocals are mixed too high or forward, overall. Bass guitar tends to be fairly inaudible. Some of the songs have a choppy musical shift. Now, that’s fantastic if you’re creating deliberately disruptive, abrasive black metal, but within a ‘mosh pitting extreme metal band’ context, it tends to break the song’s flow. While the ideas are good and the riffage is prodigious, there is a bit ‘too much digital editing’ to dig in to with any depth. The drums are heavily sampled, the vocals have some digital artifacts, and it’s obvious. While Arx presents themselves as a full lineup for live show purposes, what is on this disc is not the same as what a fan might see at a concert. Ordo Ab Pax doesn’t have the polish of a professional release – it’s more of a good demo, or something you’d find in underground trading circles. It would be perfect for mid-fi online streaming, where the compression inherent in that format wouldn’t leave a listener disappointed (as sometimes happens with intricately layered or polished albums). With careful planning and some investment in to recording and production, the band could easily take their ideas to new heights.

arx band photo

It’s a nice album if you’re going on a long trip and need say, eight hours of brash music, and you can’t decide what to do with ‘those blank-stare 20 minutes somewhere in there’. It could easily be added to break up a playlist that otherwise might end up predictable. It’s a good release, with plenty of heaviness. None of the tracks stand out as ‘showcase’ material, but overall, the record is neat and agreeable. The album’s track sequencing is spot-on, with the slowest number (“Holy Tears”) where it should be – right in the middle. For a debut, it’s a very important milestone in the band’s musical career. Arx are leveraging their underground position well, motivating or showing other up-and-coming bands how far they can take things with just a little bit of grassroots self-promotion.

Track Listing with Run Times:
Ordo Ab Pax — 0:23
The War is On — 5:05
World Lobotomy — 4:04
Shame of Life — 3:20
Inner Voice — 3:44
Holy Tears — 4:56
Lost — 2:47
Cease to Exist — 3:59
Nebula — 5:59
The Locust Horde — 3:52

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About Iris North

My formal position is: editor and music reviewer. I joined the PlanetMosh army in 2012. I enjoy extreme metal, 'shred' guitar, hard rock, prog rock, punk, and... silly pop music!
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