It feels like a millenia has passed since Xoth released their debut record Invasion of the Tentacube. The 2016 release took me by surprise. I picked it up randomly, intrigued by the rough sci-fi album artwork and the B-movie title; I expected little. What I heard, though, was striking. Xoth had a sound of undeniable strangeness. You could trace a slither of every subgenre in their sound. The patterns and impulses of their style were reasonably common – a black metal base sculpted with features of thrash, death, power and symphonic. But it was the tone of their production, the peculiarity of the mix, and the quirky hyper-melodic turns in their music which caught me off guard. That record had hooks and memorability aplenty, but this was buried under rusty, rickety dirtiness which struck the right chord. Three years is a long time, though, and I spent a lot of time scouring the web for any information about a new release. Silence. The band played a lot of gigs in the Northwest US and hinted at new songs being written but, then, nothing, really. I sort of forgot about them, except for riffs and vocal lines from”Tentacles of Terror” invading my psyche at random times in my life. As if out of nowhere the mangled title Interdimensional Invocations emerged from another dimension. Now, a second release is here. Can Xoth weave their multidimensional magic once again, or is this destined to spend an eternity in the scrap heap?
Instantly, the music sounds thicker, denser. With the help of Joe Cincotta (Obituary, Suffocation), the band have given their sound a turbo boost. Whereas Invasion had an endearing roughness, Interdimensional Invocations has a directness which intensifies the band’s sound, especially during the heavier jaunts. This record is undeniably heavier. The bassier mix aids this but the songs themselves are less ultra-melodic and more tempestuous. The melodies, present throughout, have a more acerbic quality – there’s a directness which pummels through the whole record. Opener “Casting the Sigil” crunches into being without an introduction. The song grooves at a vicious pace, supported by thicker drum and bass lines. The rickety, jazz-like fluidity of the bass is still present – thankfully – but it’s assimilated much more naturally. Despite enjoying the showmanship it conveyed in the debut record, it occasionally became too flamboyant. Here, it adds to the spirit of the songs – filling the gaps, bridging the riffs and allowing for the lead guitar solos to spin and spit at a manic rate.
The record rarely lets up. 39 minutes feels like twenty. The excellent “Mountain Machines” stings with elastic wonderment, sending forth lashes of melodic licks and grooves which writhe atop thrashy drumming. “Unseen Abductor” is similarly furious, exploding at pace and leaving a trail of chaos behind it. “Haruspex” brings a playful tone but the power-metal escapade is crushed by the madness of “Plague Revival 20XX.” Here, the diversity of Splurgis’ vocals are shown at their best. There’s a real improvement vocally on this record. Splurgis delivers lyrics with an organic touch – the tone and timbre of his growls fluctuate. At some moments they writhe and rattle in higher registers before dropping into deeper growls; at other moments he snarls with traditional black metal fury before Woody Adler interjects with hearty death growls. Mainly, it’s the diversity and timing of the vocal changes which aid the movement of the songs on this record. Xoth could have fallen into a safe zone of having uniform and bland vocals because the music is so full on. However, diversifying the vocals makes the record more human, more tactile – it aids the material.
Invasion was top heavy; Invocations is balanced, although the final two tracks are personal standouts. “The Ghost Hand of God” undeniably sounds like late-Death with extra lashings of pomp and intergalactic tomfoolery. It gallops, grooves and spins for just under four minutes, constantly mutating. It’s a raging mass of blackened thrash which segues satisfyingly into closer “Melted Face of the Soul.” It’s a track I keep replaying and I don’t really know why. Its grooves and melodies are simple but for whatever reason they smite me every time. The riffs during the song’s galloping early to mid-section ebb and flow simply. It’s this simplicity which works so well, especially in contrast to the chaos of the album as a whole. “Melted Face of the Soul” just feels grand, complete.
Not everything’s perfect. Third track “Back to the Jungle” sounds like an average rehashing of something from their debut. Although very good, the opening track lacks a unique power to set the album off on a truly great journey. However, Interdimensional Invocations has met my high expectations. It’s a barnstorming explosion of everything blackened. Most importantly, the band have found a sense of balance – the record flows well. There’s variety but it’s not too jarring or pompous. I hope Xoth keep experimenting – they’ve got a lot to give.