Written by BA Henchman.Axel is a very interesting artist, but then again, he probably got popular in quite the usual way. You’ve probably heard his most popular song, Bad Karma.
Now at 5 million+ views at the time of writing, this song has definitely blown up far bigger than Axel could have imagined. While a truly great song (I’d encourage you all to listen to it), a year on, let’s see where he is at now.
The Hollow Men – I
Compared to Bad Karma, The Hollow Men is definitely a step down towards chill, as it is a switch from the trappy feel we heard before to a more low tempo, 4 to the floor beat which slowly chugs along. This is certainly brought by the oscillating main synth which slowly grows as the initial introduction speech plays out…
With the blend that the oscillating synth and the meandering vocal-like synth create, Axel has greatly succeeded in making that rich, melancholic vibe we heard before, with such a rich harmony that gently but joyfully bounces along.
I love it already.
As the first of 5 songs, appropriately named “I”, draws to a close, I begin to wonder where the last 6 minutes went. As it draws out, he experiments with different sounds and timbres, fading the beautiful distorting ostinato slowly with glistening bells in the background.
The second song opens up the stage and what a compliment it is. A gracious fade into ambient style, with a drone wallowing in the background. I’m overwhelmed with a feeling of emptiness, darkness, and a looming fear of the unknown.
And then the drums kick in. A future garage feel, aided by the synth, until extra percussion begins to accompany into a Latin-like beat. As soon as the augmented vocals kick in, I recognise something.
Here’s the sound I fell head over heels in love with, beautifully hand crafted vocals, geniuosly put together in a wonderful ostinato. The harmony lines fully recreate the sense of melancholy from Bad Karma.
Good job Axel, good job, you made my eyes water with happiness.
As II fades out its brutally clean, reverberated pattern, III starts, and I don’t know what to expect this time.
It’s an unusual beginning. A very dusty feel of crackling vinyl and a lead synth line that appears to go nowhere, dipping around, trying to find something that is lost, until…
For the first time, female vocals jump in, with a choir-like backing. Shivers run down my spine. Beautiful, uplifting, powerful.
I wasn’t actually prepared for what came next. Thunderous bass synths pop in with oscillating, high pitched synths, finally with drums. The whole sound feels full and rich. “Trundle” is a word uttered by the speech samples chosen, and the song does groove along, almost trundling. The hi hat patterns feel like they clash, perhaps intentional to really stretch the drum groove out.
Either way, it works, and I don’t know how.
As the whistling synths fade out, accompanied by a piano, I feel left with a sense of both foreboding and melancholic happiness.
Loud synths begin this piece, adding to the sense of foreboding from before, with that dusty vinyl crackle back again. A new speech to introduce this begins…
“…the hope only, of empty men”
And bam! The groove starts again, like a well oiled machine, with a glitchy future dark garage-like groove again, and a darkwave synth to accompany this dirty, grunge-y feel. The percussion is rather IDM at this point, with clicks and pops typical of the genre. As the songs progress, this only increases with the nature the synths begin to take on.
The song crescendo’s massively. Axel has created such a powerful sound by this point, it’s amazing. I can’t help but bob my head up and down.
Suddenly, the energy dissipates. And we’re left with the synth from the beginning, and that foreboding feel once more.
As IV fades out and V fades in, the emotion is very different. Suddenly a very urban feel, with voices, children shouting, and other percussive noises simulating the feeling of an urban atmosphere.
These noises fade out, to a robotic voice with heavy reverb and echo. And as I begin to expect a sort of Daft Punk feel, suddenly, hip hop like beats hit.
“This is the way the world ends…”
Beautiful, absolutely fucking beautiful. You got me shivering again.
A switch back to the 4 to the floor beat with an off beat hi hat pattern and syncopated vocals and bass drums. This presents a really interesting feeling.
V really brings the piece to a close. I don’t know what emotions I’m left with, watery eyes, sadness, melancholy. If I had to describe this album in one word, it would have to be melancholy.
Higher pitched, trance like synths aid to the onlooking feel of the future, shifting the perspective that time doesn’t really matter anymore. I’m sad the song ended, and thus the ending of the album.
Wow, what a fantastic album.
My favorite pieces have probably got to be II or V, with such emotion packed into them, it’s hard to ignore!
Definitely check it out if you can, I really really loved this album as a whole. Especially the well crafted harmony progressions and just that outstanding melancholic feel that reigns all the way through every piece that he creates here. Well done.