Xul Extinction Necromance 01Extinction Necromance. What a quizzical title. Are we black-magicking people to extinction? Are we performing witchcraft with those species already extinct? Are we fondling the Raphus cucullatus in our quasi-orgasmic reverence and spell utterance? Only Xul knows. Hailing from Canada and brandishing blackened death metal with influences from Dissection and Immortal – the band name derives from Behemoth‘s song (itself from the Sumerian for ‘Evil,’ but let’s not get into the semantics). A follow-up EP to 2012’s Malignance, questions lie over Xul‘s ability to distinguish themselves from their illustrious forebears. Is it possible?

I think the more apt question ignores their influences and asks ‘is Extinction Necromance good at all?’ It’s self-destructively unrelenting, rarely taking its foot off the pedal to give the listener a chance to recuperate. There’s a lot to be said for isolating and unsettling the audience for a more potent sonic impact, but such a one-dimensional barrage is wearisome and slowly sapped my soul. Each track except the first suffers from this, and could do with being significantly shorter. Slicing away the flab would permit tighter orientation around the neat licks and transitions which litter the EP. Hitting thirty minutes with just four blackened death songs of such intense aggression is excessive and I actually found myself glad when I had to pause the music to suffer the inconveniences of everyday life.

It’s a shame since moments of slick song-writing are abundant. The riffs and instrumentation employed is far from bad, with nod-worthy melodies on each track. This is most notable on the first track, “Frozen, We Drown.” Unlike on the other three tracks, awareness of dynamics and progression is demonstrated, moving through sections and ensuring the unquestionable heaviness does not become overbearing. The introductory shredding guitar layered over a staccato rhythm and marching drums is memorable, as are the two principal breakdowns which split apart the tempestuous aggression. The crescendo from atmospheric quietude back into Xul‘s core sound from 2:30 is a great mini-payoff, transitioning with subtle horns which afford a degree of pomp otherwise unheard on the record – aside from the explicitly classical introduction to “Orbit of Nemesis.” An effective solo is built from a similar chord progression a little later in the song, looking back at what has already worked while progressing forwards with different sounds. Though the other three tracks are all far worse than this, they aren’t completely beyond redemption given the solid riffs on show.

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Nonetheless, positives which can be extracted are done so with great consternation, as the production job obliterates what enjoyment could be possible here. I don’t quite know what the design and editing process was, but the bewildering decision to retain a very noticeable buzz in the guitar tones is distracting in the quieter moments and condemns the heavier to a dismal lack of definition. There is a distinct dearth of clarity in the closing minute of “Chaos Requiem,” with distracting blurring on the fringes of the chords. In the heavy passages (so almost all the passages) the guitars are very soupy, and the frequent solos and technically proficient embellishments in the top layer of the mix don’t ‘pop’ or stand apart from the majority. Moreover, the drum master is about as vital and vibrant as the Atacama Desert. Mixing the drums so high in the mix with such flat textures is the main source of my ear fatigue, as the drumming can only be adequately described as pneumatic. While this drill-like quality is oft-used within the genre, it isn’t when the drums are so prominent in the mix. The weakness of bass in the mix exacerbates affairs too, rendering impotent thosemoments intended to be explosive (0:33 of “Orbit of Nemesis” for example).

In total, this leaves the listener between a rock and a hard place. Suffer the poorly defined guitar melodies in the infrequent quieter moments, or experience that kick drum bluntly clubbing through your skull. There are certainly positives to be extracted here, but it shouldn’t be so much effort and I should not be so relieved to turn off a piece of music. So in answer to my earlier question, no: Extinction Necromance is not good.

Rating: 1.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Self-Released
Websites: XulOfficial | Facebook.com/Xul
Release Dates: Worldwide: 05.19.2015