I did not get the opportunity to review the latest Vektor, but I loved it. I love the whole idea of Death-meets-Voivod-meets-black-metal-graveling. In fact I think black metal graveling is almost built for tech-thrash. It just fits, even more than it fits the music to which it is now mostly associated. And I love the soaring, Maiden-ish leads; the sci-fi horror motifs and the overall virtuosity for a purpose ethos that Vektor brings to the table.
It sounds like I am not the only one. This year I have been exposed to a few similar acts – so similar it is hard to suppose that coincidence played much of a role. Xoth has all the above mentioned trappings, so it is almost impossible not to draw comparisons. And so I am drawing them. But! Xoth does the things that Vektor does so damn well, I just don’t care. In fact, good on them.
I once read something from Stephen King regarding the plethora of fantasy novels that followed Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings publication. His notion was not that the authors were hacks – not at all. Rather they just felt so drawn to the world Tolkien created that they HAD to play in it. In metal we see this all the time. Niches build on the best early examples and, with any luck, go on to push boundaries. It is not mere copy-catting. It is that the players HAVE to play in the playground the elders created. You know these players rise above hackery when the music they create soars on its own.
Xoth’s music soars. It is not as epic as Vektor, but it is technically superb, and full of melody and electricity. Every member shreds, including Ben Bennett on bass, channeling heavy hitters like Scott Clendenin and Nick Schendzielos, with true melody accenting brightness and flair. Tyler Splurgis and Woody Adler’s twin leads are more than just showcases, but are compositionally crucial and satisfying. Drummer Jeremy Salvo rounds out the band with exactly the type of maddened pacing, alluring syncopations and joyous fury you would anticipate.
The songs are compact and fleet; adorned with fantastic melodies that feel expansive and give an air of tradition that serves them well. Opening track “Tentacles of Terror” gets the record off on a strong note, but “Antediluvian Annihilation” really shows what Xoth is made of. A sweeping opening barrage moves into an almost power metal gallop, then at various gaits all while maintaining an underlying melodic structure that is compelling and memorable. The double leads are so tasty you can’t help but think of Iron Maiden in their heyday.
“Transcending the Energy Harvest” pulls more directly from the black metal playbook, with blasting passages and tremolo-picked riffs galore. The album maintains this type of song structure throughout, with Splurgis’ blackened rasps tying the whole affair together. A short electro-space outro seals the record.
As is the norm with this type of blackened-tech-thrash, there is less emphasis on guitar textures than with capturing the melodies, so that the music is not quite as hefty as deathier tech bands, but the tightness of the performances and quality of the leads and riffs keep this firmly metal. And the bass is spectacularly present, giving the whole a kind of concreteness that any metal head will appreciate.
So, while Vektor remains the BTT band to beat, Xoth is making a serious claim for its own space among the elites. Invasion of the Tentacube is as fresh and exciting as you could want any debut LP to be, and I am happy to recommend it to anyone who loves shredding, energetically melodic metal and just plain old sci-fi fun.