(Andy Synn wrote the following review of the new album by the Norwegian band Endolith, which will be released by Rob Mules Records on January 18th.)
Hands up who here has heard Endolith’s debut album Voyager?
Ok, I see a few people have… maybe one or two more in the back, but the rest of you… shame, shame!
Honestly, after all the effort I went through (ok, maybe not that much effort) to talk about the record and highlight the band I’m not even sure you deserve to read about their new album at this point.
But, since I’m in such a magnanimous mood (and because Chicxulub is just so damn good), I suppose you might as well read on and get to know what should, if there’s any justice, turn out to be one of the best albums of the month, if not the entire year.
In many ways Chicxulub picks up right where its predecessor left off, delivering eight brand new tracks (plus one slightly superfluous intro and one unexpectedly brilliant Tom Waits cover) of heart-palpitating, intellectually-stimulating Death Metal, all infused with sweeping symphonic embellishments and strobing sci-fi synths.
Wisely, however, the trio of Malm, Jakobsen, and Hofsøy have elected to not simply produce a carbon-copy of Voyager, but instead to use the opportunity afforded them on their second album to expand their sound even further, resulting in a record that is more ambitious, more organic, and more melodic than its predecessor.
Much of this can be attributed to the increased use of orchestral flourishes, courtesy of an 18-strong string ensemble on loan from The Arctic Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra, whose not-insignificant presence on the record adds an extra level of melody and grandeur to the proceedings not dissimilar to that found throughout the increasingly eclectic solo career of Devin Townsend.
That’s not to say, however, that Chicxulub is, in the grand scheme of things, a “softer” record than Voyager. For while it may, overall, lean much more heavily on the symphonic and synthetic accoutrements, it still maintains a rather hefty metallic backbone of chunky, thick-stringed riffage and propulsive (yet also progressive) drum work as a way of maintaining the balance between the band’s more aggressive, and their more artistic, inclinations.
Tracks like “Bloodfiends”, the blast-fuelled “Mount Evidence”, and “KPg Impactor”, for all their ostentatious orchestral ornamentations, are constructed around a concentrated core of thrashy, high-voltage guitars, pounding percussion, and humongously heavy grooves, which together provide the album with an undeniably formidable sonic presence, while the continuing incorporation of soaring clean vocals on songs such as “Nest Scrape Display”, “Ichthys” (which also throws in a dash of ululating throat singing just because it can), and the unexpectedly moody “Diseasons”, serves as a clever counterpoint to the guttural, yet always comprehensible, growls of Frode Hofsøy, ensuring that the breadth and depth of emotion articulated by the band remains as wide-ranging as ever.
The album’s pièce de résistance, however, is the climactic title-track, which integrates and incorporates all the elements above (and a few more for good measure) into a ten-minute monster of epic melodies, heavyweight riffs, and carefully-calculated hooks, that’s practically worth the entire price of admission on its own!
Would I call this a perfect album? Well, no, but that’s partly because the idea that this album is in some way “perfect” would suggest that Endolith had somehow peaked, when the truth is that I fully expect them to continue to evolve and improve even further as time goes by.
What it is, however, is an album so densely packed with invention and inspired execution that you’re likely be unwrapping, and enjoying, its many layers for years to come.
If you’ve enjoyed this review, and the preview tracks featured here, you’ll be pleased to know that Chicxulub is set to be released this Friday, and that we’ll also be running an edition of “Waxing Lyrical” in the not-too-distant future where the band will expand and expound upon the intriguing central concept behind this album, and how it relates to the current political and social climate around the world.
ROB MULES RECORDS: