XLIX, the new second album by the Italian death metal band Crawling Chaos which is set for release on November 20th 2020 via Time To Kill Records, is a concept album inspired by a book that remains widely read and widely cited five centuries after it was written, and in its concept is a departure from the more usual subject matter to be found within death metal, including this band’s own full-length debut from seven years ago, Repellent Gastronomy. The band have explained:
“While Repellent Gastronomy was some sort of anthology of Lovecraftian horrors revisited in a death metal fashion, XLIX is a concept album in all respects. To write it we were inspired by “The Prince”, the famous book written by Niccolò Machiavelli in the Sixteenth Century. The narration is a kind of parable, a chronicle out of time and space that traces the story of a nameless and faceless protagonist. All the lyrics are penned in the first person by this sort of ‘new Prince'”.
In the album’s narrative, each song corresponds to a chapter in the story, which unfolds in an undefined time. The main character finds a “cursed edition” of The Prince in a lost city, and it then guides him “esoterically” towards the incarnation of the “definitive statesman, the ultimate ruler”. That is how the tale begins, and its evolution can be interpreted in different ways — “theological, sociological, esoteric or psychological”.
This kind of ambitious and thought-provoking lyrical approach is integrated with the album artwork created by Simone Strige (@strxart), and the band explain that “For those who can interpret it, it constitutes another possible interpretation with which it is possible to decode everything.”
Perhaps needless to say, this is far away from the usual fodder for death metal, and the music itself is as elaborate, as intriguing, and as adventurous as the the subject matter. Crawling Chaos have drawn their musical inspiration from bands such as Death, Behemoth, Lamb of God, Obscura, Gorguts, and Gojira, among others — and those names provide useful clues for this album’s multi-faceted sounds.
On the one hand, the music is capable of inflicting high-speed onslaughts of terrific ferocity and jolting attacks of bone-smashing brutality, augmented by a lyrical delivery of barbarous roars and enraged screams that are just as fierce as the music. On the other hand, the instrumental performances are continually intricate and technically eye-popping, often manifesting progressive tendencies that involve the listener’s mind just as often as your compulsive physical reflexes. And so, although the music will give your neck a relentless work-out, its manifold and surprising permutations become just as captivating, if not more so.
All of the musicians play vital roles in these instrumental escapades, with the bass and drum parts given equal chances to shine in their own inventive formulations, standing toe-to-toe with the extravagance of the guitar work, which includes not only spectacular soloing and gripping riffs but also unexpected bursts of sublime, seductive, sorrowful, and haunting melody.
This is the kind of technical and progressive death metal that keeps you on your own toes, because so much happens within the music as it twists and turns. But in addition to all of those kaleidoscopic changes the band also drop in spoken-word recitals in Italian that connect to the album’s concept, a bit of harpsichord music, and even some theatrical singing. Those accents add to the music’s baroque feeling, and create further connections to a classical era in Italian history.
But let’s be clear: Even though these are richly filigreed compositions, performed by people of rare instrumental skill and obvious ambitions beyond the ordinary, the album is an adrenaline-charged thrill-ride, and just as capable of leaving a listener black and blue (and with sore-neck syndrome) as it is of mesmerizing the mind. Saying that it invokes a “rapturous” response might seem like hyperbole, but that’s the effect it had on this writer, along with a deep appreciation for the tremendous amount of work that must have gone into putting the album together.
And thus, it is with great pleasure that we present a full stream of the album just days away from its release. It’s available for pre-order now from Time To Kill Records on CD and digitally via the links below. With that, we’ll leave you with these further insights into the album’s narrative:
“In order to conquer his throne and establish absolute power, the protagonist is forced to follow the historic footsteps of Cesare Borgia, the illegitimate son of Pope Alexander VI and Italian Reinassance warlord whose deeds had inspired Machiavelli’s (in)famous book.
“As the newborn monarch forces his will upon the world for the purpose of creating an idyllic utopia, an impending awareness starts pervading him: in replicating the achievements of history’s greatest figures he is actually compelled to follow a weird, predetermined path.
“Maybe, his obsession to replace chaos with order and the great, dreadful actions he’s perpetrating are just clockwork maneuvers taken by someone – or something – sitting at the edge of the cosmic chessboard…
“Ultimately, XLIX is the story of an epic rise followed by a painful, totalizing fall. Each of the seven songs relates to one of the main aspects that constitute the narration. The tale abounds with quotes and cross-references, with the writing process requiring a thorough work of research and contextualization.”
Whoa now, that’s good stuff. Sits comfy with the likes of other “new prog death” bands like Black Crown Initiate and Rivers of Nihil. Which is fine by me.
I’ll pick this up tomorrow for sure.