I know what you’re thinking. What, pray tell, is the meaning of Öxxö fucking Xööx? Allow the band’s one sheet to reveal all:
“Öxxö Xööx thus means 69, symbolising above all the desire to transform the 6 (bad in us) into a 9 (good in us) to free the immaterial (the superluminous soul) from the empire of the materialism (the underluminous body) within everything of this universe, where evil is possible. It represents, the opposite forces of the world, the eternal « recurrence » (atomic recycling) and expresses a position facing the entropy present everywhere in the tangible universe. To break free from all forms of limitation and alienation.”
My response? Haha. 69.
So maybe I’m not the ideal candidate for reviewing an album by a band which takes its craft so unrelentingly seriously as I struggle with taking seriously anyone who is so serious. But I reviewed the prior record in 2015 and now 2019’s close has yielded a sequel so you’re stuck with me. Ÿ by Öxxö Xööx takes the metal umlaut to uncomfortable extremes and forges a treatise on a cosmic, metaphysical scale, utilizing a custom language devised by this curiously esoteric band. It should be no surprise that such individuals form part of other experimental, avant garde acts such as Igorrr, Corpo-Mente and Rïcïnn. It’s easy to lose yourself down the thematic, lyrical rabbit hole on projects such as these so the remainder of this review will solely address Ÿ‘s music and ignore the pseudo-intellectual pontification. How does it fare?
To begin, Öxxö Xööx sits most comfortably under the doom metal umbrella, tending towards (but not exclusively using) slower rhythms and riffs, and leveraging gothic instrumentation such as organs, harpsichords and string sections. But Ÿ is far from any ordinary doom release with which you may be familiar. It’s a distinctly singular release, a patchwork of textures, timbres and tempos with the words “AVANT GARDE” metaphorically stitched over the top. Its aesthetic is decidedly modern despite some of its classical instrumentation and overarching strangeness. Electronic music also sounds like an influence as Ÿ has a distinct, digital feel and ‘blocky’ textures. I identified this prior to background reading around the record – as it happens, the electronic elements were carried out in collaboration with Master Boot Record which is entirely unsurprising.
There is a core song-writing paradox which impairs my appreciation of Ÿ. Its pacing and writing strike me as very deliberate as even in the densest, most weird moments, things don’t appear fast, furious, or remotely out of hand. Even the passages which are actually faster feel deliberately arranged. Despite this, very little that’s integrated lasts for a material amount of time. Lead melodies, chugging riffs, unorthodox instrumentation, deathly growls, operatic singing; all chop and change incredibly frequently, resulting in songs for which I fail to ascertain an overall melody, structure or basic idea. It’s not lacking a clear song-writing hand but this hand seems misguided. It is deliberate but does not sound deliberate. Clearly I’m lacking the requisite part of my brain to make sense of why this is appreciable, let alone enjoyable. I could chop up these tracks into 20 parts each, completely rearrange the album and I wouldn’t lose anything from my experience with them.
But even beyond this objection, the real killer is that I am simply bored. Ÿ is a simultaneously demanding and forgettable record. When listening hard it’s demanding and complicated but also feels soulless. When not listening hard you completely forget that it’s there because it’s so devoid of anything which grabs your attention, such as strong riffs or truly memorable vocal lines. While superficially varied, most tracks blur on account of the haphazard writing and the brick-walled master. When asked by Madam X if this review was in progress, my contemporaneous response was “begrudgingly.” That was an inaccurate judgment; it would have been “begrudgingly” had the record been a more appropriate duration of 40 minutes. At 80 minutes it is more accurately described as “frustratingly.” Sitting down with the record was truly a chore, such was my lack of engagement and struggle to complete it in one sitting. I will concede that the record makes more sense with more spins but after numerous dedicated listens I would still never choose it above anything else in my current library.
Call me ‘old-fashioned’ but I need to enjoy, or at least emotionally connect with, parts of a release before even considering an average grade. Neither occurred during my time with Ÿ; the closest to a real emotion I felt was bewilderment in the first 20 minutes, and resentment that I still had a long way to go beyond that. I do admit that not all is dreadful: “NS2” is by far the most acceptable track as it actually feels vaguely cohesive, and the way the varied vocals interweave is strong. But these don’t come close to resolving the fundamental flaws I have addressed and I’m delighted to not have to spend any more time here.