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TRACK LIST: 1. Primat 0:07 2. Dzahindz 3:09 3. Blax-Blax 2:09 4. Kohleria Neanderthal 1:28 5. Gegen 3:38 6. Zuth Ruznas 2:51 7. Turmena Metalstabilis 3:47 8. Nera Febramata 2:32 9. Leghio 3:29 10. Silex 3:56 11. Tellvs Rezistanzik 4:22 12. Nukkleark 14:40 LINEUP: Ramon Ribas Coca – guitar; vocals; programming Oregolakatzor – bass; vocals With: Greg Joveniaux – saxophone (7)
Prolusion. XHOHX is basically a duo (see lineup above), from France, whose history began six years ago. In the press kit the guys say they have had many gigs in their native land as well as all over the Benelux countries that preceded the release of their first full-length outing, “Karyotypexplosion”, specifically mentioning that their creative credo is to fight the commercialization of music.
Analysis. I’d like to separate the grain from the chaff in a way before expanding on what I see as the essence of this “Karyotypexplosion”. The album opens with Primat, a tiny cut only containing a howl which may well be perceived as coming from an ape indeed. The other eleven tracks here are all subsumed under a unified compositionally-stylistic concept and come across as parts of the same multi-sectional suite. Quite a few of them aren’t separated from each other with pauses, generally sounding like the sequels to their predecessors. Definitely, all this means that there is no need for a track-by-track investigation in this particular writing, and what will follow below is in the absolute majority of cases equally relevant to the entire recording and any of its full-fledged compositions-components. What instantly comes to the surface is the outfit’s thorough knowledge of various directions of heavy progressive music, among which, in turn, are instantly detectable the ones established by Garden Wall (think above all “The Seduction of Madness”) and Sieges Even (“Steps”), while those seemingly signaling their connection with Watchtower (“Control & Resistance”) and Mekong Delta (“Kaleidoscope”) are both hypothetical rather than direct influences. Apart from the above-said, quasi-academic, manifestations of Prog-Metal, the duo actively deploys a kind of RIO take on the genre (which personally I call Metal-In-Opposition), moving somewhere along the lines of King Crimson’s “Red”, Finnegans Wake’s “Pictures” and “Live” by Present. From time to time the music resonates with jazz-rock intonations also, and then it brings to mind Cynic’s “Focus”, the vocals within the corresponding moves being often almost as brutal as those in Sean Malone’s first band. However, only the seventh track, Turmena Metalstabilis, reveals some overt improvisations: kudos to saxophonist Greg Joveniaux who, sadly, doesn’t play everywhere else on the disc. It also needs to be mentioned that, not counting the self-invented language that both the musicians sing in, only the closing composition, the epic Nukkleark, is marked with the influence of Magma, bearing in places the hypnotically-repetitive twist that typifies the implied brand of Zeuhl. No, I didn’t forget who pioneered the style, but it was another French band, Zao, which brought it to perfection. The recording’s vocal palette is also polychromatic, ranging from soft growling to sort of brutally-traditional vocals with, well, Garden Wall as the best reference point again, to the dramatically-hysterical delivery that’s not too dissimilar to Peter Hammill’s to the sinister semi-whispered singing suggesting one of the (many) styles invented by King Diamond. Apparently the duo has spent a lot of time in the studio, as the recording’s sonic palette is dense and saturated, not without keyboards-sounding passages in addition. Both Ramon Ribas Coca and Oregolakatzor do a commendable job as singers and players alike, shining with technical precision, particularly when accelerating or slackening their pace. The only weak point here is the use of a drum machine instead of a real drum kit, at least an electric one. Nevertheless, even the sharply dissonant and queer melodic figures are most often properly supported by the engine (or rather its parts), so while I dislike its somewhat rubber-like sound, I appreciate that it’s programmed with competence. Either way, the final result is indeed a truly uncompromising, highly eclectic album where the borders between metal, avant-garde, fusionesque and quasi art-rock constructions are often completely blurred.
Conclusion. When the recording begins, the music leaves the impression of being brutally aggressive and singularly atonal at once, but as for me personally, everything sorted itself out already upon the first spin, and what at first seemed to be a tangle of semi-chaotic lines soon became a cohesive ball of fanciful, yet fully well-ordered, melodic patterns. All in all, “Karyotypexplosion” is from that category of cerebral creations which don't reveal all their details and nuances even after several dives into them, and in which I see the greatest value of progressive music. I didn’t add an exclamation mark to the rating only because I barely tolerate drum machines. Otherwise I recommend this disc to all advanced and open-minded prog rock lovers with a broad horizon – read: true explorers of musical depths.
VM: September 20, 2010
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