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Just like 2014’s ‘Tyrant’ before it, Aversions Crown’s third album is a solid exercise in extreme metal with heavy guitars, unrelentingly tight drumming, and guttural, inhuman vocal contortions acting as the screams. Again like that preceding album, ‘Xenocide’ is layered with science fiction-themed narratives dealing with the vastness of the universe, extraterrestrial lifeforms, eldritch horrors of unfathomable descriptions, celestial bodies, and intergalactic destruction. Yes, for I too have also read H.P. Lovecraft’s works and know what L. Ron Hubbard was cocking on about.
Oh, and there are also some human relatable themes here of revenge, life, death and a few religious connotations sprinkled over this album’s lyrical landscape. Because metal.
Anyway, ‘Xenocide’ is a solid release all up, but that’s the thing – it’s just simply good. Nothing more, nothing less. The actual performances from this Brisbane quartet are just terrific, and there’s no doubt that these Aussies are a damn talented bunch of musicians. Yet I feel that the actual songwriting and the album’s flow just do not match the band’s respective instrumental and vocal proficiency. Excluding the pointless one-minute instrumental track of ‘Void‘ that begins the record (god, I’d wish bands would stop with this whole intro song bollocks), Aversions Crown are firing away on all cylinders with the deadly pair of ‘Prismatic Abyss‘ and ‘Soulless Acolyte‘. However, from ‘The Oracles Of Existence’ onwards, which is only the halfway point of this 50-minute release, ‘Xenocide‘ just loses so much of its initial steam save for one exception in its back half, which I’ll get to shortly.
I would talk to you in vast detail about the lead single ‘Erebus’ and ‘Ophiophagy’ (Greek for “snake eater”) or about the crushing ‘Cynical Entity‘ and the so-so late game entry that is ‘Misery‘, but I’d just be repeating myself. They are all brutal and heavy in their instrumental execution; the vocals weave between high-register, pained shrieks and inhumanly low growls; the lyrics tell of this extraterrestrial tale that I could not give even half of a fuck about; and the mix does the band’s sound immense justice with matching upfront intensity with haunting, background atmospherics. And it all feels so bloody similar and repetitive after just the first few songs!
The lyrical content doesn’t help matters either but I’m saving that caveat for later on in this review.
To be fair, the stomping, groovy start of ‘Cycles of Haruspex’ (whose name stems from the Roman religion of Etruscan, were oracles practised divination to help detail omens from the entrails of sacrificed animals) is wickedly good, and the song goes through many different sections; those of the dark, heavy kind, and that of the melodic, dynamic variety, and it’s one of the album’s better songs by far. And yes, that was the one exception of the album’s back half that I mentioned two paragraphs ago. Then there’s the record’s final song, ‘Odium’ (whoa, calm down there Sentinel), which has some of the sharpest rhythms and vocal deliveries of the whole record (see 1:25-1:38). It’s just a shame that it was so short-lived!
I really do appreciate this band’s sense of progression and of them trying to become a far stronger outfit but there isn’t really anything here that excites me in the way that ‘Hollow Planet‘ once did; nothing as cutting and as bone-chilling like ‘Vectors‘ was (although, the mid section of ‘Odium‘ and the end of ‘Cynical Entity‘ came close but no cigar), and there is nothing here that is as epic as ‘Faith Collapsing‘ was.
Sure, the scope of the band’s music, sonics and concepts have indeed been accentuated here. But at the end of the day, Aversions Crown’s music is still just hectic blast beats with monstrously heavy riffs and insane vocals bending and contorting above the surging percussion, with small melodic interlude sections included to ensure that we all don’t zone out from boredom; as it is bound to always be. And even if the songs don’t initially start out that way, they eventually morph into such conventions. Of course, if that’s your jam then you’ll get a huge kick out of this record.
I also do give these guys credit for not lazily overusing breakdowns. Save for ‘Hybridization‘, though – that shit felt like Breakdown City at times.
In terms of the individual members, drummer Jayden Mason is an absolute madman behind the kit. Whether it’s on the record itself, in the live environment, or in his drum play through videos, Mason absolutely slays and his drumming suits this band’s sound and overall vibe incredibly well! Guitarists Mick Jeffery and Chris Cougan haven’t invented any new guitar tricks for this record, but they do deliver in terms of their pure riffage and swirling lead and solo output. Of course, one cannot in good consciousness mention Aversions Crown and skip over Mr Mark Poida. Interestingly enough, the most varied and engaging music that Poida has ever been a part of was when he was fronting Melbourne’s exceptional extreme outfit, I, Valiance (his vocal phrasing and lyrics were also more interesting there too). Yet here within Aversions Crown, he does indeed fit the sonic mould perfectly, but when you strip away their alien gimmick, their music is quite generic for the deathcore genre. Also, having 12 songs at these lengths is a bit of a fucking stretch; even with Poida at the vocal helm.
Unsurprisingly, Poida’s vocals are utterly fantastic, and the man is easily one of the best vocalists in extreme metal right now. However, while his vocals are superb, the lyrics – the very content of his actual vocals – are not so great.
Are you tired of Thy Art Is Murder talking about religious zealousness and the hypocrisy intertwined within its institutions? Maybe you’ve grown weary of how Whitechapel talks about how shitty the United States and the global metal community is lately? Or maybe you’re sick of hearing Carnifex’s Scott Lewis lamenting his own life and mental health? Well, Aversions Crown have got you covered with aliens! This is not the offensive piss taking that Whoretopsy churns out, no, this is all about aliens, malevolent gods, black holes, and more aliens, man. And that, in turn, makes for decent metal fodder, but it also makes the music rather unrelatable, which is not a good thing considering that this is a genre that is sorely lacking in any emotional interest.
Take a look at some of these lyrics below from’Ophiophagy‘:
“We, the enigmatic hierarchy, a council of divine deities
Into the prismatic realm, we tread within frozen time
Lost in this shapeless void, incubated through our creators light
Relinquished of physical forms
Submerged within the eye of the storm
Muscular tissues deteriorate, as the core of our being is released”.
“Inoculated with terraformation, flourishing fields of procreation.
Limitless in bounds, I know of no depths to this fixation
Yet I’m sealed within this prismatic cell, the gate of souls forever dispelled
Aeons have passed imprisoned within this immaculate hell/I only know of one way out, sacrifice my divinity formulating a mass of impurity
I, the endless night, cast thyself, a sacrament unto this life
Come forth impurity, corrupt my vanity”.
Righty-o. Or how about these from ‘Erebus‘:
“That sweet scent of divinity
Guides me through this prismatic maze
Such paradoxical abstractions
Won’t conceal you from my infinite reach
I have done such horrible things
Danced on the skin of my infant kin
And pleasured myself with their severed limbs”
Looking at some of Poida’s lyrics is like watching a man grabbing a thesaurus for the sheer sake of bolstering his lyrics. Seriously, you will lose count of the times he screams a word ending in ‘matic’, ‘tion’, or ‘ity’ after only a song and a half. I get that this style of music isn’t usually known for its amazingly deep lyrical content and it’s easy to see that this band is trying to do something new in this area (even though The Faceless did it a few years back), but I don’t think they’re “there” just yet.
I’m positive that this whole “alien metal” theme was simply continued by Poida (as he replaced Colin Jeffs in 2015, who has since ditched aliens in favour of salty, angsty downtempo tunes in Tongues) and that he’s just maintaining Aversions Crown’s lyrical standard – a standard that is indeed a step above the lyrics of most other misanthropic deathcore bands singing about killin’ shit. Which is all fair enough. And look, I love aliens, UFO’s and my cosmic horror stories as much as the next guy, but only up to a certain point. What heavy music like this is lacking right now is not these giant concept records or these vastly abstract themes and narratives, but actual fucking human emotion. And if that can’t be done, then your music needs to be as engaging and as memorable as possible and sadly, an album like ‘Xenocide‘ is a few light years away from those ideals.
It’s still pretty solid, though.
I am sure that many of death metal and deathcore hordes will proclaim this record to be the greatest Australian metal release of 2017, and I’ll chalk that up to many realising that they’ll never see Infant Annihilator live and to their losing touch with the recent works of Whitechapel and Suicide Silence. As I’ve stated numerous time before in this review, ‘Xenocide’ is a good album, but I a) could never see this release entering many AOTY lists and b) it’s only fucking January! Let’s see what else 2017 has in store for us in terms of heavy music and deathcore before we sound off in the comment sections like a bunch of giddy school children, stating this album is “the shit”.
‘Xenocide’ is an intense musical experience with plenty of extraterrestrial and science-fiction-based lyrics for nerds such as myself to lap up, but it’s also a record that really goes through the motions the longer it goes on. By the end of it, you feel worn out, and not in a good way.
- Prismatic Abyss
- The Soulless Acolyte
- The Oracles Of Existence
- Cynical Entity
- Stillborn Existence
- Cycles of Haruspex
‘Xenocide’ is out January 20th via Nuclear Blast Records.
Also, to quote a commenter on the band’s official Facebook page, “the album artwork looks like a Yu-Gi-Oh card”. Cannot un-see.