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IXXI - "Elect Darkness" (CD)

IXXI - "Elect Darkness" CD cover image

"Elect Darkness" track listing:

1. Underworld (7:37)
2. Western Plagues (5:10)
3. Southern Tribes (3:29)
4. Sinrush (4:35)
5. Beyond The Rupture (5:28)
6. Elect Darkness (4:16)
7. Enthusiasm (4:56)
8. Eastern Minions (4:04)
9. Northern Floods (4:32)
10. Vindicator (3:48)
11. A Bitter Lesson (7:11)

Reviewed by on April 28, 2009

"IXXI may lean much more towards the black metal end than the rock end, but they still have enough interesting interludes and style changes in 'Elect Darkness' to provide an eclectic and satisfying black ‘n roll romp."

The “Black ‘n Roll” variety of metal is a sub-genre that hasn’t gained much traction yet, but the few bands out there trying to give a rocking edge to their freezing cold black metal generally provide a welcome respite from all the necro sounds and unending blast beats. IXXI may lean much more towards the black metal end than the rock end, but they still have enough interesting interludes and style changes in “Elect Darkness” to provide an eclectic and satisfying black ‘n roll romp.

Metal fans who need extreme antics from their bands will be happy to know that at least two of IXXI’s musicians were forced by the other members to go into alcohol rehabilitation during the recording of “Elect Darkness.” Apparently the drinking got so out of hand that the more sober band members feared that the rampant alcoholism would prevent the album from ever being finished. If anybody was passed out drunk during the recording of the album it sure doesn’t show much, as the musicianship is all around solid and the songs are almost all memorable.

Front man Totalscorn attacks from quite a different angle than the average extreme metal vocalist, growling out a sound somewhere between a wet belch of blood and a frog-like croak. The actively gurgling nature of the growl may be a turn off for the more squeamish, but it actually works surprisingly well within the context of the music. There are only a few minor instances where it becomes grating, such as when a primal growl gets dragged on for five or ten seconds longer than it should have. Every now and again epic clean chants get thrown into the mix, but they are really more window dressing than core sound.

The introduction to opening track “Underworld” immediately eschews any sort of black metal standards, using a thick bass line and a simple drum beat. An old west style electric guitar gets used sparsely, creating a feel of a tumble weeds rolling across a water parched gulley. The song has several different groovy interludes that come out of nowhere in between the heavier and darker segments to keep the listeners on their toes. “Sinrush” is another example of where the less black elements overtake the music and keep the album fresh. If the drums were toned down a bit and the vocals weren’t so harsh, the track could easily find a place among the likes of the more mainstream metal bands that straddle the line between rock and metal. There’s enough darkness to keep it appealing to the extreme crowd while still having a catchy hook.

“Beyond the Rapture” is the only real low point on the album, as it drags a bit and lacks most of the variation heard in the other songs. The mediocre riffs and plodding pace give it a very tacked on feel. Maybe it was the track that got written while everyone was puking their guts out from too many shots of Jack Daniels.

The final track, “A Bitter Lesson,” is probably the best example of blending the black metal and non-metal elements together. A quiet water rushing/wind flowing sound effect stays in the background for most of the song and the guitar and bass manage to sound mournful. The vocalist also shows off his talents by having both his clean singing and wet growling carry a feeling of sadness and anger not heard anywhere else on the disc.

“Elect Darkness” is a much more diverse album than what the traditional black metal act would produce, although it never really crosses into the truly avant-garde. Anyone who can get down with the unique vocals should enjoy almost every song on the album.

Highs: Black metal with quite a few eclectic touches that keep the album interesting

Lows: Some of the vocals drag on too long and one of the songs is a bit tacked on

Bottom line: An eclectic black metal album that holds plenty of pleasant surprises for anyone who can deal with the vocals.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)