I’m a rare steak man. It doesn’t have to bleed to be palatable, but it probably wouldn’t hurt. After tossing a couple of sirloins on the grill for dinner, my fiancée asked how I was liking X-Method. A blood-tinged fugue immediately compelled me to follow her back into the house so that someone, anyone, would listen to the ensuing oral diarrhea. Fifteen minutes later, my untended steaks were completely overcooked. X-Method ruined my dinner and my stomach demands recompense. A California outfit formed in 1999, X-Method bill themselves as “hardcore Bay Area thrash.” While a jolt of crossover would not be unwelcome nowadays, that description is a terrible misnomer. In actuality, X-Method peddles an amalgamation of death metal, hardcore, and hard rock that will just as soon put you to sleep as command your attention. Their debut album, Sex, Alcohol, Rebel Music, lands much closer to ReLoad-era Metallica than anything on the actual thrash spectrum. Transitioning from one-dimensional death to faux-emotional ballads to hardcore-infused party metal is a tough task, and X-Method show that the past seventeen years weren’t worth the wait.
Opener “Denied What’s Ours” sets the tone for the album, cutting a riff devoid of technicality or enthusiasm and then beating it to a bloody pulp. At no point does the mind-numbing melody vary, stepping aside only for the most Plain Jane solo that you’ll ever find on something sold as metal. It’s barely passable work that might skirt by on the back of an unusual direction or a standout performance from any one of its members; instead, we’re left with five minutes that feel like ten. If you manage to stay awake through the table-setter, follow-up “Brutal as Fuck” treats you to three (three!) whole riffs this time, though you’ll be forgiven for failing to notice a difference between them. Are you noticing a trend yet?
When they’re not trying to slip Quaaludes into your drink, X-Method pinches out ill-advised ballad segments replete with hackneyed lyrics and horrendous cleans. I almost turned off “When Darkness Falls” the first time I heard it, put off by the sorry off-key crooning of both the lead and backing vocals. While the singing can only improve from there, “Waiting 4 the Rain” and the first third of “Addicted” prove Sex, Alcohol, Rebel Music’s emotional depths to be remarkably shallow. Vocalist Abby channels his inner James Hetfield, lacking only a “yeahhh yeah!” as he plops out exasperatingly non-specific gripes to mellow rock tunes. Trite lines like “And if tomorrow I’m dead and gone, you’ll know I gave it all to you within this song” suggest no one in X-Method has suffered true emotional savaging, let alone knows how to express it properly. This shouldn’t be surprising on an album with track listings like “Southern Comfort” and “Fuck Sobriety,” but for the amount of time X-Method devotes to these efforts, at least one nugget of genuine emotion should sneak in.
Compounding the writing issues, X-Method conjures negatives from anything positive. Abby’s hardcore-tinged guttural blurts, while competent, follow a consistently grating cadence that would be more natural under a hardcore flag. 16-year-old skinsman (skinsboy?) Collin outdoes his elders but loses punch and sinks further into the mix as the album progresses. Straight hardcore anthem “Woke” works surprisingly well in contrast to its heavier counterparts and actually strives toward banking some of the emotion this LP sorely lacks; however, at 47 seconds long, it’s a blip on the radar and nothing more. Foot-stomper “Triangles and Sixes” provides the only passable spin, invoking Sepultura with deliberate pacing and a decent riff, but all momentum fizzles the instant the eye-crossingly awful “Southern Comfort” begins.
X-Method suffer from an identity crisis more than anything. “Woke” and “Fuck Sobriety” are forays into dedicated hardcore that are, at the very least, somewhat easy to listen to. That’s nothing to discount given how poorly the rest of the dreck here proceeds. Conversely, there is enough of a death metal foundation in their roots that pivoting in that direction fully could prove an easier road toward respectability. In either case, aspiring to a hardcore-thrash mashup when they ignore their aptitude in the former and don’t even play the latter does X-Method no favors. Sex, Alcohol, Rebel Music is a feed bag of death droppings and regurgitated hardcore. I’d rather another well-done steak.