Ok, let’s just start with the elephant in the room. Yes, when you look at Öxxö Xööx‘s new album Nämïdäë, you see a bunch of umlauts. Apparently the band invented their own language, and their name is “69” in that language, symbolizing the duality of many aspects of life. What do Öxxö Xööx sound like? They’re a French avant-garde/doom metal band. Nämïdäë is their sophomore release, and it’s very, very interesting.
The doom metal label generally invokes an air of deliberate lethargy, a singular feeling. While this album is definitely moody, it’s definitely very experimental. The most obvious starting point for discussing how it’s different is the vocals. There is a wide array of different vocal styles on display here, and none of them are conventional. We have operatic female singing, pitched, desperate yelling, baritone chanting, and the defining factor, the weird, harmonized, extremely-vibrato-heavy cleans that almost border on yodeling (for lack of a better reference point to explain them) and a bunch more. This might sound like a trainwreck on paper, but it’s actually incredibly compelling and fresh. The singing on Nämïdäë is unlike anything else, and that alone puts it in a special position with respect to its peers. But, of course, that’s not enough to make a good album by itself – if it relied on just the vocals it would simply be a gimmick.
Thankfully, Öxxö Xööx deliver on the musicality side as well. Mostly. The instrumental stuff is a slightly blackened flair of doom metal with the occasional avant-garde instrumentation. Synths, baroque instruments, the usual stuff (well, usual for certain flairs of avant-garde and generally doom metal). The album has a strong gothic feel, with a generally slow pace. There are occasional blast beats to change it up, and there are a surprising amount of small tempo changes that keep the pace moving. Even then, Nämïdäë is rather plodding at times, and while this is an expectation of their genre label, it inevitably does disservice to the other parts of their sound. The elements the band use in their song are so diverse, so full of potential that seeing them only utilize it in a very specific way is a bit of a shame. Perhaps it’s a bit unfair to judge an album for what it’s not instead of what it is, but the mind-blowingly unique vocals stir one’s imagination and the possibilities not being fully explored is disappointing – basically, they’re too good to not expand upon, this is in a way a good problem! Regardless of the tempo, the band still manage to deliver very satisfying, epic moments through buildups and releases crafted expertly, with the synths coming in powerfully to accompany the hearty vocals in powerful, dramatic moments. The production, is wholly competent, and the album sounds massive. Talking about the individual aspects of the sound and each instrument’s role is not really important when it comes to Nämïdäë, as the overall effect is more than the sum of its parts.
Overall, Öxxö Xööx have delivered a powerful avant-garde doom metal opera in Nämïdäë, centered around an extremely unique and intriguing vocal performance. The pervading slow pace of the album might be a turnoff for listeners looking for the more spastic aspects typical of experimental metal, but the singing is so interesting that that isn’t really an issue. And fans of doom metal will find a very well-crafted, authentic album with a strong aura with tinges of gothic and baroque (and, at the risk of sounding repetitive, the amazing vocals – they’re really cool and this point is worth hammering home). Even if the genre labels are a huge turnoff, the panache on display here warrants attention, and in the core of it all lies a very solid album.
Öxxö Xööx’s Nämïdäë gets…