It doesn’t quite do justice to refer to Öxxö Xööx as a mere band. Reading through their biography documents a total cultural project encompassing not just the music, but art, language and philosophy. It is the veritable definition of the self-satisfaction of an ambitious artist, and a stunning depiction of arrogance. Nonetheless, it is impressive, with a hundreds-strong dictionary of new words, a philosophy centered around the discovery of truth through total life and pain, and a singer-songwriter also credited with “visual design.” To understand the music of Öxxö Xööx one needs to grasp the totality of their endeavor, to attempt to grapple with the minds behind such ideas.
It should come as no surprise that such an enigma involves the artistry of Gautier Serre, the madman behind Igorrr and Corpo-Mente. However, Nämïdäë is captained by frequent collaborator Laurent Lunoir, responsible for the music, lead vocals and as aforementioned, “visual design.” The result is a highly experimental variant of doom metal, difficult to distil down to a few descriptive words. It touches on baroque sounds, with heavy usage of organs and a harpsichord. Ornate synths and programmed instrumentation flesh out the background layers. Lunoir’s vocal diversity peppers the album, ranging from snarls and shouts to croons and chants, bolstered by Laure Le Prunenec’s similarly creative female vox and choral passages.
The upshot is that the music is very dense and complex, and consequently quite inaccessible to the newcomer. Concerted effort is required to unravel and comprehend what’s occurring, as pretty much everything happens at every moment. There are dynamic shifts and breakdowns, but the cacophony of instruments and layers is fatiguing. Opener “Därkäë” exemplifies this, with a multitude of layered instruments and textures, and little logical progression as the song pulses and crashes through its course. The challenging nature of the music is certainly exacerbated by the album being massively over-long at seventy-five minutes, with some tracks which offer nothing beyond what is found elsewhere, such as “Därkäë,” “Dä Ï Lün” and “Ü.” I don’t think it’s a coincidence that these three are not just my least favorite, but also the longest and most wearisome tracks.
Furthermore, this density supplants clear song-writing and further alienates the listener. It’s like Öxxö Xööx endeavored to use a wide range of sounds, recorded as such and then just clicked randomize on the multitrack recorder. Save for explicit breakdowns and moments of subtlety, it’s difficult to pick out individual layers to appreciate the melodies, allowing songs to bleed together.
If I’ve been negative it’s because there are nuggets of gold in the mountain of excess material. Occupying the mid-point, “Lör” and “Lücï” are both very effective. Unlike much of the rest of the album, in which positive progression and development are foregone in favor of avant-garde disrupted structures, they have more straight-forward momentum. “Lör” slowly layers and builds an early crescendo which repeats progressively more forcefully to the song’s conclusion, utilizing fewer instruments and prioritizing Lunoir’s scream over simple, doomy percussion. It’s the closest thing to a memorable chorus. “Lücï” calmly but assuredly builds an atmospheric introduction, progresses to a climax, then evocatively fades. Most other tracks seem messy and disordered by comparison, sincerely limiting listener identification. A few other individual passages stand out too, like the melodic tremolo-picked riff towards the beginning of “LMDLM” and the xylophone transition into rollicking doom at 1:30 of “Äbÿm.”
Addressing the production, Nämïdäë commendably uses the ALAC format, ensuring a very rich and detailed sound. However, and I know this is probably the point, the mix is very dense and makes it difficult to pick out individual layers and melodies. Indeed, a superior dynamic range would definitely aid the fatigue which can result from long listening sessions.
Maybe Öxxö Xööx is a little too clever and enigmatic for their own good. Save for the aforementioned examples, overall song-writing falls by the wayside in the presence of their massive sound and complexity. I certainly do appreciate their core style since they are very unique, but more has to be done to convince me that this is not just an esoteric vanity project.