Style: Black Metal
Release Date: 2 Jan 2019
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Metal Archives
This album caught my attention for a number of reasons. For a start, Xul ov Kvlten are a black metal band from Chile, where they really like their thrash. They're also called Xul ov Kvlten. How do we even pronounce that and what does it mean? And, even realising that black metal album titles are traditionally overblown, what the heck are they going to be singing about on Entropic Increase from the Omega Aeon?
And then I pressed play and, shortly into the opening track, Ascend Pathos Signis Dómini, with its black metal guitars, surprisingly slow drums and keyboards floating above everything like a choral cloud, it starts to feel familiar. Is that Tchaikovsky's Slavonic March? I do believe it is and it provides structural bookends to the song, which ends with wild laughter.
Yeah, this band has my attention. I know that black metal has always had an affinity with classical music, but this is overt and it elevates this album, especially through the use of keyboards. The other surprising bit comes much later towards the end of The Primordial Chaos Synthesis, when the band pause their blitzkrieg for a moment to churn in a sort of ritual.
It seems that Xul ov Kvlten, who hail from Santiago, were formed in 2014 and this is their first full length album, coming after only a 2016 EP called Nitimur in Vetitum. They're a trio, with Amon on guitar, Xul on bass and Funebre on drums. Xul also handles the vocals, which were what stood out for me for special notice.
Musically, they're clearly capable but, the classical nods aside, there's nothing in the music that will surprise anyone who's listened to black metal for more than about five minutes. Once past the opener, they're at speed pretty much throughout and this blisters along for fifty frantic minutes with nothing else particularly notable except that ritual piece. It's just good at what it does and simply doesn't feel much of a need to be groundbreaking or experimental.
Xul's vocals, however, are fascinating. He growls more than he shrieks, but not in a death metal style. He howls and he laughs and he rages. He punctuates and he accompanies. At points he even seems to converse with himself in a Xul duet, like he's the little angel and devil on his own shoulders advising him how the next ritual should be performed. In short, he feels less like a singer and more like a magician or, hey, a twelve foot demon. Why not? This is a lot more Satanic than it is pagan.
His voice is delivered with notable, even flamboyant, confidence all the way through this album, as if he's ordering us more than he's singing to us. While the lyrics are primarily in English and Xul is more intelligible than most black metal singers, I couldn't quite discern what he wants. On The Primordial Chaos Synthesis, he clearly wants us to give him something but I couldn't tell what. Maybe it doesn't matter.
On Iconoclastic Nihilismus, which pauses at one point for him to go a cappella, it feels theatrical and that leads me to an odd takeaway. I often wonder how bands would sound live, but I wonder what Xul ov Kvlten look like on a stage. There's no way these guys are just going to stand there and play. There has to be a show too and it has to be interactive.