Xantam LifeDeathBeyond – Blood Harvest.
Review by Trevor Proctor.
Xantam began its existence two years ago when it’s single founding member started to become a little disenchanted with only playing drums – at that stage he’d been a drummer in a Death Metal band called Abscission for eight years. Xantam felt he wanted to expand his creativity by writing complete music and perform all associated instrumentation instead of concentrating on drums alone.
He began by playing guitar and keyboards and after a mere few months the first Xantam track, “Realm of Vile Lamentations” was written. Completion of this initial track was the catalyst required to spur him towards creating more music and at this stage he created a name and logo and began writing more music. One element that makes his creations all the more unique is the fact he learnt no music theory nor how to play music from any other bands on guitar or keyboard – all of his writing is created through trial and error and written “completely from the heart and ear.” Soon after another two tracks were written and these three initial Xantam tracks are those featured on the demo. This demo was originally released and distributed independently on CD but Swedish label Blood Harvest wasn’t long in detecting the talent within and have just re-released LifeDeathBeyond on tape in a limited quantity of 150.
The three tracks are quite long in duration with an average play time of close to nine minutes each so you’ve got plenty of listening time to take in the sheer ambition, scope and variety of the music. You’ve plenty of imaginative lead work and synth elements amidst some seriously good death metal. Xantam lists bands such as Zyklon, Damnation and Morbid Angel as sources of inspiration and states “Xantam is all about the music and is my contribution back to the metal world that I grew up in.” Granted the music may sound a little raw in places but there’s no doubting the talent and ambition to behold, and remember, it’s all the creation of one musician. When you take this into account and also consider the sheer talent and ambition along with the fact this is a first experimental demo for Xantam you’ve got a hell of an accomplishment. Xantam’s music was perfectly summed by the following quote from the press release “Sure, it may be a “little rough around the edges” as the euphemism goes, but the sheer boldness of vision displayed by Xantam on its very first demo suggests boundless brilliance for the future.”
A live incarnation of Xantam was also created when Matt Valdez and Mike Gonzalez from Abscission joined for live performances along with Aturo Gaitan (Ruminations/Morbid Gods) who joined to play drums. Xantam played their first live show in January 2015 along with another two excellent bands, Ascended Dead and Spectral Voice. Unfortunately this show didn’t go well but Xantam decided to give live performances another go and by the end of summer 2015 they returned to the stage with a much better performance, prompting positive feedback since which they have played a number of live shows. Further good news from Xantam is that not only has Blood Harvest just released LifeDeathBeyond on tape but as further testimony to the talent of Xantam they have also signed them to release the band’s forthcoming debut album “Astral Dominion” on vinyl, CD and digital formats during summer 2016. LifeDeathBeyond is another release not to be missed, for a band to achieve a debut demo with music of such a high standard is remarkable, for an individual to do so is phenomenal. Ambitious and promising. 9/10
01 - Transcendence
02 - Shadow Gates
03 - Realm of Vile Lamentations.
Veneficium - s/t demo - Iron Bonehead Productions.
What is it with New Zealand and the quality of the underground music it thankfully puts out on a regular basis? With a rich history that boasts, among many others, the likes of Vassafor, Heresiarch, Trepanation, Ulcerate and Witchrist there’s no doubting the country’s contribution to metal’s underground. In March this contribution will be further bolstered when the country’s latest underground band, Veneficium, release their debut demo and what better place for it be released from than on one of the underground’s most reliable and productive labels, Iron Bonehead Productions. Combine this with the fact the demo was recorded and mixed by the mastermind that is VK from Vassafor and you’ve one Hell of a combination that certainly can’t, and thankfully doesn’t, disappoint in any way. Veneficium (New Zealand) is not to be confused with the Canadian black metal band of the same name, very little is currently known about the membership of Veneficium, aside from the distorted band picture from Facebook which suggests three members there’s very little information online.
Veneficium’s self-titled demo is due to be released in March on cassette only at this stage but based on the quality of the music it’ll only be a matter of time before it gets the vinyl treatment. Mefetic Exhumations kicks things off in the most destructive of fashions as Veneficium set out their stall in the heaviest of manners – down tuned to death and immediately intense this is blackened death metal that’s much superior to a lot of what’s about at present. The production levels are a touch sharper than a lot of music of this ilk, a lot of fantastic black/death out there has slightly muddier/murkier production levels but I feel this slightly cleaner production makes Veneficium sound just a little sharper. There are some slower sections during tracks 1 and 2 but by and large it’s pretty much a full on barrage of extremely good black/death metal. Granted, there are times you could be reminded of some of their fellow New Zealanders, especially during track two “Aggregation of Sufferings Manifest” when at times the pace reminded me a little of Vassafor but I absolutely mean this as the highest of compliments and there’s enough little nuances here and there to give Veneficium their own sound. The vocal throughout is a deep and intimidating growl that casts its own shadow over proceedings and helps add further darkness to the music. Track three “Mordant Photism above Cathedrals” sees the band adopt a different tempo than previous; much slower in its approach but at the same time all the more consuming for its drop in tempo. There are few tracks in this style that are as strangely addictive yet totally devastating at the same time – this is one hell of a track and in closing it cements my feelings that Veneficium are most definitely a band I’ll be keeping on my radar. Another essential purchase from Iron Bonehead Productions. Flawless 10/10.
01 - Mefetic Exhumations
02 - Aggregation of Sufferings Manifest
03 - Mordant Photism Above Cathedrals.
LifeDeathBeyond by Xantam is currently available from Blood Harvest and Veneficium's s/t demo will be available from Iron bonehead Productions from 11th March.