As a band, Xoth represent a specific challenge to review: it feels impossible to concoct the right combination of words that both accurately describes the band and makes them sound as appealing as I’d like. Metal runs into this problem more often than other genres, I think. As sounds become more and more extreme, everything is more and more stylistically constricted and new paths that open up are immediately subject to stampede by any number of bands trying to make their voices heard and rise to the top of the growing pile. What this results in is a sort of half-baked, choked language of description that is even more self-referential than most art talk tends to be; writing about metal very easily becomes a closed loop comprised of a couple handfuls of adjectives and some name-dropping of bands more well-known than the one you’re discussing. Mix in a couple of smart-alecky comments or a personal anecdote and bada bing bada boom, you can do some pretty serviceable metal writing.
What I’m lamenting here is that it’s very very hard for me to find the words to describe Xoth without merely devolving into saying into the tired cliche of “they sound like [band] meets [band], with a little bit of the sound of [genre] thrown in for good measure.” The other problem is that it works perfectly for Xoth: they sound like Revocation meets Vektor, with a little bit of the sound of melodic black metal thrown in for good measure. See? Unless you don’t have a mild understanding of the variables I’ve so easily plugged into that equation, you probably have a good idea in your head of what you’re in for with Interdimensional Invocations, and, to be completely honest, you’re probably pretty close to the album’s sound.
This is where we run into trouble: to stop there is to do Xoth a disservice. Interdimensional Invocations is way better than that sort of phoned-in, lazy description would imply. Now, make no mistake, they do sound like a combination of Revocation and Vektor that has some definite influence from the melodic black metal territory. They have all of the former’s labyrinthine song structures that careen back and forth between dizzying fretboard pyrotechnics and crunchy death-thrash riffs, and all of the latter’s bright, crisp, strangely catchy melodicism and curtly percussive vocal phrasing. Throw in a few tremolo-picked sections that sting of what Dissection’s Storm of the Light’s Bane would sound like if the reaper on the cover was carrying a lightsaber instead of a scythe, and you can pretty accurately triangulate Interdimensional Invocations without hearing a single moment of the album itself.
But it isn’t the what of Xoth so much as the how; it’s not Xoth’s destination but their journey that makes this release worthy of your time. Their melodies are exciting and catchy, their near-constant energy makes for a remarkably enjoyable ride, and, to be completely frank, the riffs are just fucking awesome. The runtime of 40 minutes is also perfect for what Xoth has to offer: they come, they say their piece, and leave without ever feeling as though they’ve overstayed their welcome. They assemble, deconstruct, and rejigger their sound on every track just enough that each one has an identifiable footprint of its own without ever going so out of the box they establish for themselves that it feels out of place. Interdimensional Invocations is the sort of album you can come back to time and again: it has such a natural buoyancy of its own that it needs no justification to being your soundtrack for whatever task occupies you for the next hour or so.
Interdimensional Invocations isn’t a perfect album. The songs bleed into one another because their sound, as well-done as it is, is fairly monochromatic; once you know learn their tricks and crack their DNA open the band loses some steam. This is hardly surprising, since part of what makes their influences as exciting as they are is their unpredictability and ability to switch mode on a dime. The production also, although not bad, could have been handled with more tact: everything feels crowded and melodic throughlines in songs sometimes disappear into the near-constant raging river of guitar and drums. However, these are minor bumps on what is otherwise a completely smooth ride, and to say these pose a serious block towards enjoying what Xoth has to offer just wouldn’t be the case.
Will Xoth turn the heads of the multitudes and ascend to metal’s upper echelons off the strength of Interdimensional Invocations? I doubt it (although I’d love to see that). Their sound has plenty of musculature but it’s hard to say they have quite enough of a persona of their own to smash through the barriers that prevent them from living alongside their influences. But that isn’t to say that Interdimensional Invocations doesn’t truly have something exciting of its own to offer. Although it’s what might initially draw people into Interdimensional Invocations, their good impression of great bands isn’t the real pull here. It’s the way that Xoth take a select pool of influences and use the true alchemy of excellent songcraft to turn what sounds like an elevator pitch for mediocrity into a deeply enjoyable, genuinely good album. I’ll be spinning this one for a good long while – at least until the next Xoth release for sure.
The horrid cosmic entity known only as Xoth belches forth Interdimensional Invocations on our Earth date October 18th, 2019. Be prepared for its arrival – follow the bandcamp link above to preorder the album or buy merch.