Lillian Axe - Sad Day On Planet Earth (Blistering Records/Warner)

If Lillian Axe were a football team they’d be Tottenham Hotspur – not quite top level, not a team that’s ever going to get relegated, but a team that seems content where it is – in the middle of the pack.

American band Lillian Axe have been around since the late 1980s/early 90s in various forms, and, like Tottenham, have gone through a few players. Sad Day On Earth is their ninth album so they have some form, but unfortunately there’s nothing outstanding about their melodic rock sound, nothing to really push them to the top of the ladder. They come across as another one of those mid-level big hair bands that sprung up in the 90s with one or two decent songs and a pretty lead singer, but nothing to follow up with.

That said, there are some really good songs here - Jesus Wept, The Grand Scale Of Finality, Down Below The Ocean with its 80s reunion-era-Deep Purple feel to it, and the poppy Divine are damn fine examples of what these guys can do.  Guitarist, songwriter and Axe stalwart Steve Blaze knows his stuff and can pull together some mighty fine hooks, but in the end I’m not convinced there’s enough of that to really score with. And the second rate ballads Sad Day On Earth and Blood Raining Down don’t help their cause.

The band is content to play out a nil-all draw and stay in the middle of the table when they could with a little more effort really challenge some of the other bands, such as label mates Moonstone Project or House Of Lords, or any of the elders who are still out there playing the circuits.  With vocalist Derrick LeFevre they’ve got a guy with a great pop voice, the rhythm section holds it together well, there’s nothing wrong, in fact, with these guys but there’s just nothing outstanding either.  There’s plenty of evidence here that these guys know their stuff, there are some great pop hooks, some solid playing, just this side of heavy, a good sound, but there’s the frustration of knowing they could do better as well.

The final track, a 14-minute opus called Fire, Blood, The Earth & Sea is the nail in the coffin. An attempt at a prog epic from a band that is best suited to rock/pop is not the way to finish unless you do want to be relegated to the second division. Frustrating band, plenty of talent, not too many goals being scored.

Lillian Axe's Sad Day on Planet Earth is out now on Blistering/Warner.