Much has been written throughout music journalism over the past few months about the current state of the world and how it can be/should be/has been applied to music creation and consumption. To the point that writing about “the current state of the world” in reviews has become a seemingly mandatory prism through which everything that music writers publish must pass. I’m not postulating that this is an inherently negative thing, but to be honest I’m probably as sick of reading and writing about it as you are. Regardless of this mental exhaustion, the current circumstances we find ourselves in are so fundamentally inescapable that it’s nearly impossible to not mention them when filtering music through our personal lenses. So in this review we could tell you about how Xythlia’s stunning debut record Immortality Through Quantum Suicide is a chaotic amalgam for our times, or an audio reflection of the utter hopelessness that permeates our modern existence. But I think music like this is done a disservice when strictly attached to the moment in which it was created. I’m not going to assert that the above statements are untrue (they most certainly aren’t), but rather that what Nick Stanger (also of Ashbringer) has accomplished here is significant enough to transcend its release date and enter into more large-scale critical territory. I’m talking mainly here about the universally recognizable expression of ugly and utterly human, unfiltered, primordial rage, which this record displays in abundance.
Though, if I’m dropping my metalhead status for a moment, there’s very little about Xythlia that could be considered “universal”. Immortality Through Quantum Suicide is the very definition of an acquired taste, and even many inoculated to metal’s inherent viciousness will find this particular brand of technical death grind a bridge too far. To say that this music is chaotic is an understatement. Stanger’s compositions (while varied and thoroughly mesmerizing) are a gnarled root of abrasive, atonal riffs that could easily be likened in intensity and execution to the recent work of Serpent Column or Devourment. This is a decidedly punishing release that from its literal opening seconds makes its presence and aesthetic felt without a shred of subtlety. So reader be warned: Xythlia takes I, Voidhanger’s penchant for cross-genre strangeness and intensity and cranks it to 11. But if you are able to endure the sheer madness that the album’s opening moments unleash and find what you hear intriguing, you will embark on what is without question one of the most rewarding and harrowing sonic journeys unleashed upon the death metal world so far this year.
Good grief are those opening moments harrowing. “Death Unyielding” has no build, no wind-up, no atmospheric scene-setting. Instead it begins with an absolutely pounding collage of blasts and off-kilter riffs that eventually congeal into a frenetic (yet surprisingly melodic) spray of bloody audio violence that is as intense as you will hear in this brand of music, period. That level of intensity doesn’t let up through the opening moments of follow-up track “To Defy Inevitability” in the slightest, rather the proceedings get somehow even more grotesque, presenting a Mjolnir-level hammering that decimates all in its path. Until it doesn’t. This is where Xythlia separates itself as a project from many of its contemporaries. There’s real melody to be had here, a knack for melancholic songwriting that is genuinely abrasive but never abandons a cathartic moment of mid-tempo contemplation when it presents itself. Such moments are present here and in tracks like “Antidream”, and can also be found nestled as a constant undercurrent like that found in “Ablation of Subconscious”. For all its abrasiveness, this is not chaos for its own sake, but rather intentional songwriting choices that distill human rage into a sequence of sounds that are every bit as complicated as the emotion itself. It’s spellbinding stuff.
The remainder of the record only builds on the foundation laid by its opening tracks, with slabs of aggression like “Flesh Prison” and “The Eye Bath” presenting some of the most compelling music on the record. At 23 minutes, there’s a whole lot that happens in a very short amount of timing, making Immortality Through Quantum Suicide an album that’s incredibly easy to revisit (“easy” being relative in this case, naturally). These compositions balance complexity and straightforward punishment nearly perfectly, allowing these songs to be dissected on a deeper level or used as the soundtrack to a mindless headbanging session at your leisure. That’s not a small feat to accomplish, but Stanger does so here with a level of care and genuine, raw emotion that’s rare in this type of death metal. I could go on and on about how great this record is, but I’d rather you stop reading right here and go experience it for yourself.
Immortality Through Quantum Suicide could indeed be the record that best encapsulates the current state of our world, but such a narrow classification diminishes how fundamentally enraged this music is. Stanger has with his debut under the Xythlia moniker built a monument to pure, chaotic, unrepressed rage that is as harrowing as it is intriguing. There’s a humanity to this music that eschews the typical machine-like coldness of technical death metal and instead fully immerses itself in the existential, blooded depths of the psyche in a way that few albums in this vein have accomplished. It’s an astounding feat of pure wrath that I haven’t been able to stop listening to since its release. Fans of the grindier side of technical death metal will find plenty to sink their teeth into here, and I would not be surprised if this record makes its way onto more than a few best of lists by year’s end. It will most certainly be on mine
Immortality Through Quantum Suicide is out now via I, Voidhanger Records, and is available for physical pre-order on Bandcamp.