RXYZYXR and I go back a ways, back to their four-song instrumental demo in 2010 called Geometrical Metal, though I didn’t discover it until first being caught up in the videos they made for two later songs — “Denial of Death” and “Polar Knights” — which I wrote about in July 2011. By that point, the instrumentalists in the band (whose precise overseas locations are still not clear to me) had joined forces with a talented Florida-based vocalist named Tommy Wills.
Earlier this month RXYZYXR finally released a full-fledged debut album, and by full-fledged I mean 13 songs and nearly a solid hour of music, including those two songs that first grabbed me back in 2011. Continuing to shun vowels, the band have named the album LMNTS, and it’s available on both iTunes and Bandcamp.
When I first heard the band’s music, I began comparing them favorably to the likes of Textures and CiLiCe, whose vocalist Daniel de Jongh moved over to Textures and made his debut with that band on 2011’s wonderful Duality. Having now heard LMNTS, the comparison is even more apt, and yet RXYZYXR have integrated more stylistic variety into their music than even those comparisons would suggest.
At the core of RXYZYXR’s music is the kind of Meshuggah-influenced polyrhythmic pummeling that fellow blogger Angry Metal Guy once delightfully termed “high-IQ-riffage”. The unpredictable, unstable rhythms are heavy as lead and yet bound and dart like cheetahs in a high-speed chase.
Booming, jabbing, and jolting (sometimes in a punishing level of explosiveness), the rhythm guitar and bass performances demonstrate both a high level of technical skill and an exuberant amount of creativity. The intricate drumming is also top-shelf, and the counterpoint interplay between the percussion and the stringed instruments exerts a strong hold on the listener’s attention. Thankfully, the effect of all this math-metal extravagance is neither tedious nor monotonous, neither cold nor mechanistic. I found it thoroughly engrossing and physically irresistible (and by “physically”, I mean I banged my damned head to every song).
But there’s much more going on in LMNTS than highly competent rhythmic algebra. The music is an appealing mix of hard-charging, start-stop dissonance and cool melody. Spiraling, swirling, often spacey guitar leads thread their way through the off-kilter hammering, and the power of the songs ebbs and flows, the band breaking away frequently from the intricate, pounding rhythms to introduce softer interludes filled with a variety of guitar solos that vary stylistically from cool jazz to prog extravagance.
The jazz influence is so pronounced in some songs that the guitar tuning/processing makes the solo’s sound like a tenor sax (or maybe a sax really does make an appearance in songs such as “Transcendental Needs” and “Denial of Death”, and “Locked Inside”?), and the intro to “The Things” features a completely wonderful combination of soft, echoing acoustic chords and a jazzy bass solo.
And when’s the last time you heard the sounds of a xylophone in metal? Well, I’m pretty sure that’s what I heard in “The Things” and again in the outro to “We Dominate”.
Speaking of variations on the usual math-core theme, I also have to mention the completely out-of-left-field jazzy instrumental track “Cradle (Of)”, which features what sounds like an Indian hand-drum, a mellotron, and Tuvan throat-singing (!).
The variety in the instrumental music, which moves so effortlessly from complex battering to mellow melodicism, is matched and enhanced by the versatility in Tommy Wills’ vocals. Much like Daniel de Jongh does on Duality, he effectively moves without pause from harsh howling and barking reminiscent of Jens Kidman to tenor-range clean vocals that are both subdued and passionate, depending on the song.
In both the harsh vox and the clean, Wills demonstrates impressive range and a good feel for what vocals will fit best at which times. His movement between the two divergent styles of singing sometimes contrasts with the speed and tone of the instrumental music and sometimes moves with it, the whole band ebbing and flowing together as part of the same tide.
The music is filled with contrasting transitions and changes of mood and atmosphere, yet RXYZYXR manage to avoid throwing the listener completely off-balance when they change course. The songs hang together; the pieces fit in ways that somehow make sense. Instead of being tossed in an out-of-control roller coaster ride, you’re in a hot car on an open road, with a pro behind the wheel who hits the curves in a smooth glide, gives it the gas in a satisfying rush of acceleration on the straight-aways, and sometimes takes to the air as it vaults off the crests of hills.
I’ll end where I started: If you’re a fan of bands like Textures and CiLiCe, if you appreciate the integration of pummeling rhythmic complexity and inspired melodies, if you want creative songwriting and technical proficiency in the execution, you definitely need to hear LMNTS.
[bandcamp album=1543194312 bgcol=000000 linkcol=4285BB size=grande3]
Thank you for saying “Meshuggah-influenced polyrhythmic pummeling” and not “djent.”
This bands sounds a little too all-over-the-place for me, but the previously-mentioned riffing does have me intrigued.
That word has a tendency to just shut down certain people’s minds without them wanting to know anything more. I swore to myself I wouldn’t use it in this review. 🙂
And do give the music a chance. I’d say the most straight-forward bruiser of the new tracks is “Machine Hearts, Machine Minds”, but “The Things” and “We Dominate” will give you a better sense of whether the integration of styles on the album is going to work for you or not.
Cool, I’ll check it out.
So it looks like they’ve evacuated their vowels. (Ba-da-tsshh!)
I think when you start comparing a band to Meshuggah, you have to specify whether or not they’re djent. From reading your comparisons (Textures) I’m going to go out on a limb here and say they are djent. I know people hate the term, but it’s useful. I’ve already moved on from them.
At the risk of opening up a well-worn subject, what in your view divides Meshuggah-influenced bands between “djent” and “not djent”?
That’s a really tough question to answer, other than using the old “I know it when I hear it.” To dig a little deeper, djent is basically prog nerdery that happens to use some of metal’s sonic template (99% of the bands that you would compare to Meshuggah), whereas the good stuff is metal that might have some crazy time signatures or some shit (e.g., Eryn Non Dae). Vildhartja (or whatever they’re called) is the only one I can think of that’s somewhere in between, but even they fall under djent’s umbrella.
A tip for remembering Vildhjarta’s name and pronunciation: remember it in two parts as “vild” and “hjarta”. “Vild” meaning “Wild”, and “Hjärta” meaning “Heart” (or something like that).
These guys have surprised me pretty much. I’ve been a fan since those two videos too, but I had my doubts as soon as they decided to find a vocalist. That’s because I mostly enjoy the instrumental part in music like this and vocals can sometimes ruin the whole thing, like in Periphery’s debut for example (imo).
And even the first samples with vocals haven’t convinced me.
But I must say I really enjoyed every fuckin’ song on this album!
I enjoyed their demo, and this album isn’t bad, per se, but the Meshuggah influence is overpowering, especially in the harsh vocals. It’s not even so much the sound as the phrasing and cadence, which is pure Jens Kidman.
It’s an ongoing source of annoyance to me that so many 8-string users write music that sounds like recycled Meshuggah riffs. I wonder if it’s simply a limitation of the tuning, in that playing palm-muted chords would just shake the floor without making much in the way of sonic impact, so you have to play those kinds of riffs pioneered by Meshuggah.
For this reason I’m glad that Textures stuck it out with 7-strings and have managed to carve out their own style of metal.
I’ve had a few full listens through now, and I especially love the lyrical content. Good to see bands taking on some modern themes. Hi IQ riffage and hi IQ lyrics ftw! In fact, the vocal delivery as a whole and using it to lend a certain additional percussive element – like on the opening track ”do you ever think how your life could end at any second” – is an interesting feature. I’m definitely going to have to revise my picks of ‘best of’ albums for the year, and this will be on it for sure. Now if I could only figure out how to pronounce their name so I can say in conversation ‘hey you should really check out this band….umm…rxxlkjtgh’
I asked RXYZYXR some questions through their BandCamp account (They have a contact link there), and one of the questions I asked was the pronunciation of their name. Vasja (not sure which one that is) told me “We pronounce ‘arksai`zaiksr’ “. I’m pretty sure that means it’s pronounced either ark-say-zayk-ser or ark-sy-zyk-ser.