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xx Xx - Y CD (album) cover

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xx Xx

 

Experimental/Post Metal

4.00 | 1 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
4 stars It's very rare when a modern metal band crafts a sound that is totally unique but that's exactly what the umlaut loving avant-garde / experimental goth-doom metal act XX XX has done. It's been four years since the lauded "Nmd" hit the scene on the Blood label which created a triumphant mastery of doom laden gothic metal with symphonic and progressive elements. XX XX may sound atypical but exemplifies a common theme for French artists throughout history and that is take the artistic process to bizarre new levels of creativity and in the process alienate far more potential fans than attracting a fanbase due to the unrelenting drive to pioneer light years ahead of the accepted contemporary paradigm. In that light, XX XX is very French indeed although all identifying factors have been obfuscated in layers of symbolism.

It didn't occur to me until listening to the band's newest release, simply titled ?, that XX XX in many ways is like the extreme metal version of France's other "think-outside-the-box" pioneers Magma. Above all, XX XX takes the listener to far reaching places unlike any other and that's exactly what both of these bands succeed in doing. Adding to the similarities with Magma, XX XX have also crafted its own invented language where only umlauted vowels exist. All lyrics are in this invented language with an emphasis on philosophy and eternal cosmic themes. After all, the band name can be reduced to the number 69 which follows a ridiculously convoluted story where that number symbolizes that 6 (the bad) and 9 (the good) which together will free us from the empire of materialism and the opposite forces of the world or something of that nature.

Other similarities include long sprawling epic compositions that implement a common element such as a riff, a melody or a rhythmic stomp and improvise upon it for many minutes at a time with each of the tracks seamlessly connecting so that they comprise only parts of a much larger wholeness. Whereas Magma utilized the classical cadences of Carl Orff and the subtle jazz effects of John Coltrane for sonic timbres, XX XX mine the world of doom metal and gothic rock along with healthy doses of electronic embellishments glazed over by gloomy atmospheres and alienating zigzags through an endless variation of guitar riffs, percussive outbursts and of course the mix of male and operatic female vocals courtesy of Laurent Lunoir (multi-instrumentalist, lead vocals and has adopted the band moniker as his stage name) and Laure Le Prunenec aka Rcnn (piano, operatic vocals and guitar for live performances). Also important to the sprawling epic XX XX sound is the involvement of the avant-garde stalwart Igorr which is topped off by drummer and percussionist Isamos.

It is no understatement to claim that the bizarre nature of XX XX is an acquired taste to say the least. This is no fly by night metal band that can be deciphered in a mere single listening experience. This style of abstract and even obtuse musical parading weirdness comes off as an incessant Teutonic march of avant-garde stomps that break out the ultimate nerd driven artistic palette to paint surreal visions of Dracula-inspired love affairs taking place in extraterrestrial settings where the folklore of yore meets cosmic intergalactic crossroads. It's as if the progressive rock intricacies of Magma have intermingled with the goth doom aspects of Type O Negative and the industrial bleakness of early Einstrzende Neubauten. With processed synth guitars crafted by cybermetal guru Master Boot Record and the incessant symphonic background effects, one thing is for sure, and that is whether you love or hate this bizarre amalgamation of stylistic antics, you cannot claim to have heard anything even remotely similar to the sounds drifting in and out of sequence on ?.

For all its bombastic excesses that sound like a funeral dirge for zombies with oozing layers of sound slinking around as if there were the sonic equivalent of a lava lamp, XX XX maintains firm control of an underlying melodic development although in a darkened and lugubrious setting with only occasional metal rampages adding the proper contrast to break the haunting monotony. This is the weird kind of stuff i actually love quite a bit as i have been enthralled with the first two releases for a number of years however now that XX XX seems to be sticking around for the longer run, a few things do come to mind when pondering the developments of the last four years. First of all, this band seems to have created a creative cul-de-sac, that meaning that it hasn't crafted a sound that can be expanded upon in a noticeable manner. This album sounds very much just like the last one as the emphasis is on the varying displays that change it up often around rather melancholic doom laden strolls down a 78 minute run. While i personally love this weird music enough to experience another album of this nature, it does seem like the wellspring will run dry if new approaches do not manifest themselves.

In many ways, the entire album sounds like a dreamy intro that never ends and instead expands itself to over an hour's run. I can totally understand why many will find this just too weird and unsatisfying yet there's something about it that draws me in and embraces the simultaneously electrifying and hypnotic callithump of stentorian assaults of vocal performances and masterful instrumental interplay. It really boils down to the moment by moment developments and not the entire picture (not sure that's the intent though) because the album seems to exist in its own amorphous nature without anything tangible to grab onto. Needless to say, they call this avant-garde metal for a reason. There is little here to make references to and even though the doom and gothic tags are relevant, this is just plain weird. Too weird for many but i'm up to the challenge and although i think XX XX have crafted another excellent display of idiosyncrasy, the wow factor that the previous album is lacking and i have to admit that the album could've been trimmed down a bit.

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |

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