Thursday, January 24, 2013

Xul: Malignance (2012)

Cybernetic Organism

Technical death metal and blackened death metal diverged from a common ancestor years ago, and only a few mules have spawned since that speciation. Canadian band Xul is one such mule, as debut full-length Malignance attests.

In terms of presentation, they (consciously or unconsciously) choose a decidedly old-school aesthetic. The cover art is charcoal-black occult high school art project all the way, and song titles tend toward hordes, winter, and tombs rather than words out of a science textbook. But there’s plenty of evidence that there’s a love of tech-death in the band as well.

They have plenty of old-school sonic credibility. Their high-energy death metal is ornamented with pinch harmonics and whammy bars like it’s 1993; the drums pretty much do the double-bass thing like it’s going out of style. And if that were all I had to say about it, then this would clearly appeal to a certain audience.

Sadly, that feels like living tissue stretched over a robotic endoskeleton. For one thing, there’s the excessive sweep picking. By itself that isn’t such a terrible thing, when used right. But the way it’s used here—and indeed, the way much of the album sounds—has as much soul as any trite technical death metal album. Yes, they picked up a few traits from early Morbid Angel, but they learned how to write a song from The Faceless. The symphonic death instrumental in the middle of the album isn’t doing them any favors, either.

I don’t mean to say it’s all terrible, by any stretch. The first two songs are pretty cool, and there is an excellent part near the end of “Vengeance,” when he yells “Vengeance shall be mine!” There are cool parts, but the songwriting just isn’t there yet.

The Verdict: 3 out of 5 stars

1 comment:

  1. They're also entering into a crowded field, as Canada is a "hotbed" of this particular combination of metal sub-genres.