How the hell is Devour and Birth not being picked up by a label? The third album from tech-death act Xenosis is incredible. It sees the band take the forward-thinking nature of the best technical and progressive death metal, and pair it up with the hard-hitting nature that defined the wider death metal genre in the first place. Restless, aggressive, and with the song-writing skills to match their technical proficiency, Xenosis have recorded an astounding album, and that it’s being self-released is nothing short of shocking.
When done right, tech-death can feel as if it’s the most natural evolution of the genre, combining brutal heaviness with moments of grace and subtlety that take the listener away to worlds unknown. That’s very much the case with Devour and Birth; one moment the band are embarking upon star-chasing technical wizardry, filled with virtuoso guitar lines that reach for the heavens themselves and move with confidence and lightness; the next, they’re indulging in the kind of ultra-heavy riffs that you might expect from a Cannibal Corpse record, the muscular stomp making the melodies all that more effective and vice versa. Second track ‘Army of Darkness’ is a great example of this; most notably between the 3:00 and 3:20 marks, but examples are plentiful throughout the album.
In this way, Xenosis and Devour and Birth recall a lot of the early tech/prog-death bands – most notably, there’s a lot of later-day Death in their sound, and the production recalls the glory days of the early 90’s too. There’s enough clarity here for the nuances of the songs to come through – especially the bass lines, which often have a jazzy, restless feel that gives the songs an extra element – but also for there to still be enough dirt under the fingernails, and to avoid the problem of over-production which often saps the energy from technical metal of all styles. The vocals also deserve special praise, with their deep growls and powerful bellows coming through wonderfully.
There are a few points where Devour and Birth begins to cross over in to modern or djent territory, with ‘Concave’ in particular having something of a Meshuggah feel to it, but such moments never fall in to the lethargic riffs the genre can suffer from, and are always complemented by dexterous sections of melody and movement. It’s hugely satisfying to hear a band make use of such a style whilst keeping the energy and momentum going.
The overall impression of Devour and Birth creates is that of a band who are more than ready to be counted amongst the big names of the tech-death scene, and who evidently have the talent to justify such regard. The album is a deeply impressive one, that simultaneously recalls many of its inspirations without ever feeling in thrall to them. It’s the sound of an exciting band demonstrating that they’re ready to move up to the big leagues of tech-death, and it would be no surprise if Devour and Birth were the record to see them do just that.
Devour and Birth is due for release on 19 January 2018. It can be pre-ordered on CD via Bandcamp.