In writing about this British Columbia band’s two previous releases, their 2012 album Malignance and their 2015 EP Extinction Necromance, I tended to lose control of my metaphors, because their blackened melodic death metal had a tendency to make me lose control of my mind, at least temporarily. Their sound was so explosive, so jet-fueled, so technically impressive, and so rampantly ferocious, that any kind of calm and clinical analysis was beyond my capabilities. The music did display intensifying twists and turns and alluring melodic nuances, but the enduring memory is of the pure blood-rushing energy of the attack.
At last, Xul will be releasing a second album. Entitled What Lies Hidden…, it’s now scheduled for release on October 19th, and it’s our pleasure to present a full stream of this electrifying album today.
I’m afraid that this new record is so intricate, so inventive, so technically impressive, and so strikingly dynamic that it has again caused me to lose control of my adjectives and metaphors. The songs are packed with fleet-fingered fretwork that’s both fluid and darting, jolting and swarming, accompanied by carefully nuanced but often explosive drum performances and by a combination of scalding shrieks and bloodthirsty snarls that signify nothing has been held back. And to that list of genre ingredients I mentioned earlier, which include black metal and melodic death metal, it wouldn’t be amiss to add progressive metal.
The songs are marked by rapid changes of tempo and mood. They are brutalizing and luminous, moody and exuberant, and head-spinning in their persistent course-changes and juxtapositions of soft, hauntingly eerie melodies and ravaging, barbaric assaults. You’ll encounter punishing grooves and jittery, macabre note flurries, as well as earthy, soulful bass lines and warm, alluring arpeggios, which somehow go hand-in-hand with vicious, flesh-cutting riffs and gut-busting drum fusillades. The album reveals crushing bleakness and sparkling buoyancy, unchained lunacy and soaring flights of majestic instrumental extravagance.
All of these changes are beautifully integrated, and repeat listening reveals just how well-planned the songs really are. Just listen to the sublime instrumental opening of “Waldeinsamkeit” and the way in which the music gradually segues into an increasingly intense onslaught of sound, while elaborating upon and adapting that opening melodic refrain without ever cutting the thread that it began unwinding. But similar craftsmanship is on display in all the tracks. To pick out only one more, the closing track “Petrichor”, which is an album stand-out, is another fine example of the way in which Xul harness dramatic changes in style and intensity in a way that seems natural as well as emotionally gripping.
Even when the wistful acoustic guitar instrumental, “…Death Reveals”, makes an appearance seven tracks deep into the album, it isn’t entirely surprising, given how many surprises Xul have already delivered up to that point.
Xul’s five-man line-up has remained intact for 10 years now, a durability that’s a rarity these days. The result could be thought of as a well-oiled machine, but certainly not a well-worn one. And there seems little doubt, having heard the album, that all that time spent together has enabled them to work so well as a unit in creating such complex but coherent music (and the production quality allows you to appreciate the role of each member in doing so).
Hope you enjoy the album as much as I have. Pre-orders are now available for What Lies Hidden… through Bandcamp (CD and digital). The cover artwork was made by Dave Levi.
Oh, man. This is tight. This just rocketed up the ROTY list. Nice review, hombre de las islas.
Thanks for the kind words.