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Xalpen - Black Rites (2016) - Review

Band: Xalpen
Album title: Black Rites
Release date: 6 September 2016
Label: Morbid Skull Records

01. Unsheathe The Dagger
02. Devourer Of Light
03. The Magic Of The Devil's Tobacco
04. Spirits Of Darkness
05. Psilocybe
06. Leviathan's Tail

Black Rites is the first album from Xalpen; an unlikely and unholy congregation of both German and Chilean influences that mercilessly expand on the cult of brvtality that is Black Metal. Short but not sweet, this album seeks to destroy right from the start as the sound of a blade being sharpened creates tension before heavy guitars and explosive blast beats hit you right where it counts.

Black metal is a genre that has been used and abused by all manner of mediocre minstrel and relentlessly recycled by oblivious "posers" and clueless "hipsters" ad infinitum; even some of the old greats are now walking memes of hilarity, garden variety generic shit and self-mockery. Others have disowned their roots and scoffed at the hoards of weaklings and oxygen thieves that have dared to call their music black metal. Despite all this nonsense and metal sacrilege, the black light still shines through as it did in the beginning, like a black rose growing out of a pile of putrid human waste and excrement.

Xalpen is the "Goddess of the Primordial Waters of the Underworld. Bringer of the infernal hosts from the depths of the abyss and opener of the gateways to the spiritual chaos".
The album cover is indicative of mysticism and black magic with use of esoteric symbolism and the colours of red, blue, grey and black. Dark tree roots grow out from a place unseen into the cavity of a crowned skull and out of the eye socket in the form of a red flower; an image reminiscent of the "tree of life", or is it the "tree of death"? Maybe the embodiment of life and death, the eternal cycle through this world and the Underworld. Psilocybin mushrooms also extrude from the skull and a ritual dagger stabs through the roots into the brain of the skull as smoke pours out from the handle like a burning stick of incense. The Black Rites have indeed begun just as in old times. Demons will be evoked and exploited as the worship of dark forces and sinister apparitions ensue in the hallucinating magician's mind. The lines between the real and unreal, the seen and unseen are blurred as chaos reigns supreme. The black goo runs thick as it did in ancient times in the dark corridors of pyramids, citadels, catacombs and mortuaries alike.

This is 'Black Metal' as it should be; furious, fast and relentless with a relatively lo-fi sound, though definitely not lacking in bass compared to some releases. Equipment hiss, lack of "good production" and tracks that carelessly end with no volume fade-out add to the aesthetic and stay true to the genre. Black metal is often ruined with excessive attempts at "improving" the sound and mixing the vocals loud and upfront with horrific samples added to the drums. This is not one of those albums. The blast beats are brutal and messy like they should be and the guitars and vocals move in and out, breathing and often getting muddled up in the drums to create a ball of oppressive noise. The overall sound is still 'good' enough so that the drums explode when they need to and the vocals, bass and guitars can be distinguished. The vocals are excellent and fit the music perfectly ranging from shrieks of madness to more guttural almost death metal growls. There is a good balance of blast beats and breakdowns with some very notable riffs along the way. The album is short, but there is enough space for a few surprises like a tasty guitar lead on "Psilocybe" and even a piano track, "Leviathan's Tail" which was certainly not expected.

The execution is raw and chaotic, the atmosphere is ritualistic and "religious". The music channels hatred and euphoria alike and it is clear that these "barbarians" have been honing their craft with conviction and devotion.

The gates to the spiritual chaos have been opened by Xaplen and all manner of depraved entities and incessant spirits seek to cross The Abyss into the realm of man.

Those who revel in chaos and destruction would do well to recite the Black Rites.

Review written by: Evceles
Rating: 7,5/10