Tech Death Thursday: Xenosis
Xenosis have returned, and they’re better than ever. Let’s get tech!
In case our premiere of “Army of Darkness” back in December didn’t make it abundantly clear that I was totally on board with everything Xenosis is about, then let’s erase all doubts: Devour and Birth is an amazing work of progressive death metal. It’s rare to come across an album as instantly enjoyable as this, especially in a genre built to be dense and abstruse. This album does a lot of cool stuff, so let’s get right into it.
It would be much easier to describe Devour and Birth if “Army of Darkness” provided an accurate snapshot of what to expect, but that isn’t the case. Every song is similar from a high-level perspective- they’re all heavy, progressive, and filled with solos and leads- but the way those elements are brought into play vary greatly from tune to tune. Opener “Night Hag” is a largely mid-paced song built around meaty syncopated riffs and tricky drum beats. “Ominous Opus” starts off as a no-frills sludgy beatdown, gradually bringing in sinister leads and start-stop riffing, and “The Projector” cuts away everything extraneous for a blasty death metal finisher. The album thrives on vicissitudes, executed with consistent skill and power.
One of the band’s biggest strengths is their ability to reexamine the core aspects of the genre and make them sound new. Nods to the progenitors of the genre are found everywhere; the harmonies and cadences of some of the riffs echo mid- to late-years Death, the bass presence and tone recalls Cynic, and there are sprinklings of Meshuggah-style grooves throughout the album. It never sounds like they’re simply retreading old ground, though; the way these parts are implemented and performed make them feel original in spite of the obvious influences.
I was also consistently impressed by the guitarists’ grasp of melody. Solos in tech death are very hit or miss, either being a glorious display of the musician’s aptitude or comparatively underwhelming alongside the rest of the music. Here, though, they are nigh on perfect. The typical building blocks of a metal guitar solo- swept thirds arpeggios, linear scale shredding, and so on- are largely swept aside in favor of pure melody (all the more impressive given the speed they can reach). Each solo feels like a song unto itself, progressing through their own arcs without a single wasted note. They are often the highlight of the song and are appropriately used in moderation.
It’s unfortunate that there are only two songs available at the time of writing; I really want people to hear this one. Xenosis has always been a solid band, but their third album brings them to a whole new level. I know it’s early to say this, but Devour and Birth is going to be the gold standard for prog and tech death in 2018. If you like what you heard today, you can pick up the album at Bandcamp on January 19th. Be sure to follow Xenosis on Facebook too, and tell them the Toilet says hi. That’s all for this week, and until next time,
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