Xentrix – Seven Words Review

Xentrix may not be a household name, but it should be. The band’s magnum opus For Whose Advantage? had the misfortune of coming out in 1990, a banner year for thrash. It wasn’t as impressive as Megadeth’s Rust in Peace, as seething as Forbidden’s Twisted into Form, as aggressive as Morbid Saint’s Spectrum of Death, as memorable as Artillery’s By Inheritance, or as blasphemous as Exhorder’s Slaughter in the Vatican. Still, For Whose Advantage? packed a punch, with berserk riffcraft that went straight for the jugular. And it sported the thrashiest of album covers, with a sleazy bigwig in sunglasses who’s scheming to steal your oil reserves and denigrate your culture. Seven Words is Xentrix’s second comeback record, a follow-up to 2019’s decent but flawed Bury the Pain. As a Xentrix apologist, I was thrilled to pick up Seven Words, but feared the worst.

Seven Words fuses several neighboring strands of thrash metal. Xentrix’s early work carried on the tradition of late-1980s thrash, while adding a tinge of frantic technicality in the footsteps of Coroner. None of this has changed, but Xentrix’s toolkit has expanded over the years. While many older bands soften over time, Xentrix’s riffs have grown more oppressive, with a crunchiness that reminds me of early Sepultura. Conversely, Seven Words also incorporates a stronger sense of melody throughout, across melodeath-tinged riffs and soaring guitars. This distinguishes the album from its predecessor Bury the Pain, where these melodic sensibilities were present but less prominent. Whether you love Xentrix or not, they’re sure as hell evolving their sound.

Seven Words’ main asset is its gripping energy. Xentrix’s thrash riffs take no prisoners. My personal notes for the stunning album highlight “Spit Coin” include the phrase “makes me want to put my fist through a fucking window,” if that’s any indication. It doesn’t stop there; Seven Words is jam-packed with killer riffs that alternate between frantic (“Seven Words”) and menacingly simple (“Anything but the Truth”). The melodic tinges add a surprising amount of flair, despite not being Xentrix’s bread and butter. Xentrix deserves special praise for their colossal choruses. The choruses on Seven Words merge crushing slow guitarwork with shockingly catchy vocals, burning tracks like “My War” and “Behind the Walls of Treachery” into my mind. However, the middle of the album underperforms on these fronts. Songs like “The Altar of Nothing” and “Reckless with a Smile” have some strong sections but feel less vicious than their peers, and fade from my memory as a result. Seven Words excels through its blistering energy, and intermittently falters when it dials things back.

Xentrix’s veteran songwriting ties the disparate pieces of Seven Words together. The album uses thoughtful buildups and transitions to blend technicality, belligerence, and melody. Tracks like “Seven Words” and “Spit Coin” accomplish this by morphing riffs little-by-little into new ideas, so that every moment sounds seamless. Elsewhere, the bass often takes the reins from the guitar, with leads that both add variety and make transitions more fluid (“Reckless with a Smile,” “Anything but the Truth”), despite sounding less punchy than on Bury the Pain. The upshot is that Seven Words has fantastic replay value, since many of its high points sneak up so stealthily that it takes a few listens to fully digest their prowess. Still, Xentrix’s songwriting falls short of world-class thrash because of its repetition. Seven Words relies on variants of a simple verse-chorus-verse-chorus-solo-conclusion structure throughout, which is respectable in small doses but blunts the album’s impact. This repetition makes weaker tracks like “Everybody Loves You When You’re Dead” and “Kill and Protect” feel bloated, with ideas that fall flat once and then come back for seconds. More creative song structures would make Xentrix’s mostly-solid songwriting shine even brighter.

The most impressive part of Seven Words isn’t merely that it rocks, but that Xentrix has shapeshifted over their forty-year career without compromising quality. Thrash isn’t a forgiving genre for old coots. Thankfully, Seven Words mixes time-tested writing with youthful vitality and injects classic thrash with enough pizzazz to remain exciting. It doesn’t rewrite the thrash playbook, and its dips in quality prevent it from being a modern classic. But Seven Words is a worthy listen for any fan of massive, uncompromising music. And if you’ve never listened to Xentrix before, today is a perfect time to start.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: V0 mp3
Label: Listenable Records
Websites: listenable-records.bandcamp.com | xentrix.co.uk | facebook.com/xentrixmetal
Releases Worldwide: November 11th, 2022

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