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Album Reviews : Xenobiotic – Mordrake

By on February 29, 2020

To the ears of this humble fan and writer, there is just something more interesting about progressive heavy bands, or even bands that inject a little progressiveness into their sound, than about non-progressive bands. It’s the increased dynamic awareness, the greater imagination in the arrangements, the superior compositional nous, on top of the higher levels of musicianship, that progressive bands display.

Perth’s Xenobiotic are an undeniably progressive-leaning death metal band. Their sound is as brutal, intense and savage as just about any band that exists within what could be considered the ‘mainstream’ of the worldwide heavy music spectrum, but their music is rife with the aforementioned progressive elements, and this maintains the interest levels across the course of an album’s length. And then keeps you coming back to draw from the musical well repeatedly.

Well, it does for this humble writer anyway.

Mordrake, the band’s sophomore album, brings that joyous dichotomy to the ear of the listener that skilful bands like this do so well: the music is weighty and oppressive, it expresses a sense of depressive doom that weighs on your psyche (although they are certainly not doom band, it just exists in the general aesthetic), and in doing so is uplifting and provides cascades of musical enjoyment, listen after, listen after listen. It sounds like a contradiction, but it ain’t. Try it, you’ll see what I mean.

With an album like this, the brutality of the music and the vocals and the razor-sharpness of the production are what draw you in initially. Then it’s the songrcraft, the light, shade and variation within the sound and the interesting, well thought out conceptual and meaningful nature of the 11 tracks on offer here that keep you coming back. This album is not one long blast beat (although blast beats certainly play their part at times), there are moods, colours, atmospherics, twists and turns that make this record a real journey across blistering but fascinating soundscapes.

There’s no point singling out individual song highlights, this record is wall to wall quality, an album that is at its best when listened to end to end in track order, the order in which the creators intended it to be experienced. Of course, that is not to say that you can’t drop in anywhere and find enjoyment in this age of streaming, playlists and goldfish-level attention spans.

If there is any justice in the music world, Mordrake will be a landmark album in the Aussie extreme music canon. Only time will tell, but it absolutely deserves it.

Band: Xenobiotic
Album: Mordrake
Year: 2020
Genre: Death Metal
Label: Unique Leader Records
Origin: Australia

About

Rod Whitfield is a Melbourne-based writer and retired musician who has been writing about music since 1995. He has worked for Team Rock, Beat Magazine, themusic.com.au, Heavy Mag, Mixdown, The Metal Forge, Metal Obsession and many others. He has written and published his memoirs of his life and times in the music biz, and also writes books, screenplays, short stories, blogs and more.