Axis Of Release Single ‘Blackcomber’

May 4, 2022

Following the contemplative rumble of Beach Light, Axis Of drop their follow-up single in the form of the galloping Blackcomber. No less pictorial or pensive in lyrical exploration, Blackcomber tackles existential woes, worries and imagery. The pace has quickened and there’s an assured vitality to proceedings with intricately woven guitar lines complementing the thudding rhythm section, only relenting as we reach the songs hopeful and soaring crescendo. Blackcomber is yet another convincing declaration from Axis Of’s third studio album Bella Pacifica.

Axis Of is Niall Lawlor (guitar, vocals), Ewen Friers (bass, vocals) and Ethan Harman (drums); friends raised on Ireland’s north coast, between the tourist towns of Portstewart, Portrush and Portballintrae.

They grew up with the Atlantic Ocean in front of them, a remarkable coastline with all its beauty and power a constant. Scenes which influence their music still. But it was travel and exploration that informed this album most. The references to Scottish islands and Irish seas which often formed the backbone of the band’s first two albums have not been replaced but have been joined by Australian plains and Canadian skies. Bella Pacifica is an album that looks outward, a celebration of existence. It is personal, the songs are about “us” says Niall.

After the band’s second album they took time away from their primary musical project, but an innocuous fall while in Canada led to a lengthy period of serious ill-health for Niall. A reliance on medication – to counter symptoms which hadn’t yet been fully explained or understood – forced Niall to withdraw further from work, friends, music and life. Niall describes how that time in his life often “felt endless”, but slowly – with better diagnosis and help from family and friends – things improved. Ewen states how “Music can be helpful and healing. I remember going to see Niall and his illness was finally plateauing. At some stage I remember thinking ‘he’s getting a bit better’”.

Before his return to Ireland, Niall had sent Ewen some demos recorded in a snow-covered cabin in Canada. These would be the foundation from which Bella Pacifica grew. Ewen remembers seeing Niall’s gradual improvement and it giving him extra drive to finish those songs off. He added lyrics when he could “to give something, any kind of distraction, to Niall”.

Eventually Niall and Ewen found themselves in studio on a remote Scottish island tracking a record for which the writing process spanned many of the most exciting and joyful times, through to some of the bleakest and most hopeless. It is a journey reflected in the triumphant music and often heartbreakingly personal lyrics.

Niall explains how much of the new album is about endurance “it has sad songs…but it is hopeful that there can be good times again”.

The band have refocused, consciously removing much of the stress that comes along with making and releasing music. The goals have changed. “The album was created not knowing if anyone would ever hear it” says Ewen, and when Niall talks about the measures of success for the album he says there are none “The success is existing in the first place”. Isn’t it just.

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