In the green-binary star system of Xoth, the deity Idh-yaa got all down and dirty with Cthulhu to create his slutty star-spawn. In a similar fashion, the band Xoth have got all down and dirty with all the blackened sub-genres of the metal-sphere, spawning a debut album that reaches far beyond the stars. Xoth competently convey the playful theatricality of Bal-Sagoth, minus the symphonic quirks, and the elaborate prog-death twists and turns of Sound of Perseverance era Death through a Lovecraft meets sci-fi B-movie themed musical lens. Throw in equal measures of ultra-melodic black-thrash sweetness and Absu-esque fury and you’ve got a recipe for something great, and Invasion of the Tenatcube is great.
Xoth have an unhinged quality that cranks, creaks, and fizzes with such a joyous intensity that I can’t help but feel uplifted every time I listen to Invasion of the Tentacube. The album is verbose, over-indulgent, loquacious and incredibly garrulous, and because of this, it’s a fascinating listen from beginning to end. Xoth have garnished their music with a much neglected ingredient in extreme metal circles: fun. A light-heartedness runs through the music in the form of ultra-melodic and spiraling dual guitar harmonies, the most sumptuous of slap-bass twangs, and lyrical annunciation demanding that we “get down to our feeble knees and bow to the ooze.”
However, for all its fun and light-heartedness, at its core Invasion of the Tentacube is a technical spectacle that changes pace and tone at a dizzying rate. Opener “Tentacles of Terror” whips proceedings into action with catchy melodies that mimic the snarled vocal lines. The song warps into full-fat bassline soloing followed by waltzing lead solos followed by more soloing and more bass twanging with an undercurrent of emphatic drumming led by a prominent yet satisfying snare sound. Each instrument, the bass (played by ex-Warbringer member Ben Bennet) in particular, has an organic quality that gives the album such intriguing character.
The intertwining guitars glean with an acerbic vitality from start to end. The ultra-melodic phrasing, as in “Antediluvian Annihilation” and “Digital Mausoleum,” is reminiscent of Beyond the Permafrost era Skeletonwitch. However, it’s an airier style; Invasion of the Tenatcube does not sound as restricted or condensed as a lot of contemporary metal. There’s a certain fluidity and a sense of improvisational disarray that surges through without letting up. “Antediluvian Annihilation” in particular rampages forward with satisfyingly uplifting riffs that lead to power metal-esque soloing that can only warm the heart.
Xoth can shift to the darker side of the spectrum with ease, though. Songs like “Terramorphosis” and “Transcending the Energy Harvest” burst into existence with more bite and venom. Guitarist and vocalist Tyler Splurgis is largely uniform with his use of mid-ranged snarls but they’re dirty and angry enough to add a venomous dynamic to the melodic lead guitar stargazing. Second guitarist and vocalist Woody Adler supplies the death growls that only sporadically, though to great effect as in the excellent finale “Universal Death,” make an appearance to add muscle to the showboating. Comparisons with Vektor will undoubtedly be made, however, Xoth aren’t as dissonant, vast and clean sounding. Xoth tell a completely different story. If Vektor are the Star Destroyer then Xoth are the Millennium Falcon: rusty, rickety and full of character.
Xoth haven’t completely perfected their sound; at times their compositions are rough around the edges. An album so unremittingly pulsating is a double-edged sword: the myriad riffs and constant cacophony are brilliant but at the same time, such as during the middle period of the album, I experienced a sense of over-stimulation. So much nourishment is refreshing at first, but when the nutrients keep coming, and coming, and coming, the flavor begins to die. There’s just so much goodness to take in but not enough time, space, and careful planning to facilitate for it. This is personal preference but slower and meaningful interludes, such as the synth/classical guitar interlude towards the end of “Antediluvian Annihilation,” would send Invasion of the Tentacube to even more impressive levels.
Invasion of the Tentacube is not just great fun, it’s a technically diverse offering, built upon an organic and full-bodied production, which spreads its tentacles across various black-thrash connected sub-genres with an assertive confidence, especially for a new band, that is refreshing and encouraging. Invasion of the Tentacube isn’t without flaws, but these are minor; a closer focus on pacing with a bit of structural pruning and fine-tuning and Xoth could be on to something excellent in the future.