Of all the criticisms thrown at black metal, the lazy, tired “black metal has no riffs” argument is easily the most likely to jerk the eyeballs of anyone with any experience in the style involuntarily around to take a good look at their own brain just to make sure they haven’t had an aneurysm. In order to get those eyes back where they belong, Belarus’s Downcross have just the cure. Their fourth album in three years, Hexapoda Triumph, declares all out warfare with the riff as the primary armament. While it wouldn’t be entirely accurate to call their style black/thrash–such a moniker tends to imply a certain balance between the styles–their blend of putrid obsidian boasts some impressive thrashing chops at the core. It injects the album with high octane fuel that burns fast and bright. Aside from the intro/interludes, Hexapoda Triumph seems incapable of sitting still.
Then the swarm attacks.
The first stings hit as the vocals let loose a vicious howl over a black’n’roll groove. The assault flies seemingly unexpectedly on their victim as the band shifts styles every fifteen seconds or so, yet there is a pattern of attack that feels instinctual. Downcross strike swift and hard, the swirling blasts needling the flesh and almost just as quickly changing tack and hitting a speed metal run before morphing into a deep groove that really pumps the venom through the veins. Even throughout all these changes, the band build and build the tension across the song until it erupts in a death blow that brings it all together for one hell of an opening foray.
The slow tempo at the start of “Alphabeast Worldmurderer” (hell of a song title, yeah?) again lures a false sense of security, and the same intensity that “Trumpets” exited on explodes before their victim can fully recover. A taste of the venom starts to warp the senses as the lead guitar warps ever-so-slightly. A battle between hazy, poison-induced delirium and the adrenaline surge from the direct attack takes over the mind. The cohesive sense of crude melody holds the song together before again Downcross execute a flawless climax, as though taking the best moments of the earlier moments of the song and pounding them home beneath merciless blasts.
That taste of the venom on “Alphabeast” takes a stronger hold on “Where Spheres Myroblys With Pus.” The poisoning becomes staggering as the phased guitars pan across the soundscape, a wave of psychedelia washing across the field of vision before the driving fists knock the album back to an external assault. There’s something about the physical assault of the straight up rocking parts that keep the album grounded despite the off-the-rails changes that litter each and every song. Throughout the course of the album, Downcross deliver killing blow after killing blow while packing enough riffs for three or four full tunes in every track. The production does a great job of distinguishing the sounds without over polishing, keeping a grimy crust over the entire affair as the band deliver dead-on strikes with “Fist Of Hubris” and “Verity Is Mirrored By Madness.” Downcross flirt with Katharsis levels of madness and unhinged aggression, weaving them smoothly into a style with a bit more digestible rock, groove, and melodic overtones.
And, in case it needs mentioning again, a seemingly bottomless well of riffs. Unstick your eyes and open your ears.