Thursday, 6 March 2014

Album Review; Mechina - Xenon

Track Listing:

1. Xenon
2. Alithea
3. Zoticus
4. Terrae
5. Tartarus
6. Phedra
7. Thales
8. Erebus
9. Amyntas
10. Actaeon

Last year, one of my favourite albums released was 'Empyrean' by Mechina. The follow up to that album has now arrived, and I couldn't wait to hear it and subsequently review it. My expectations were naturally high when going into this album, Xenon, which is the final part of a trilogy of albums that the band has called The Acheron Trilogy.

The band have lost none of their penchant for building an effective sonic atmosphere, that much is apparent from the start of the record. One immediately noticeable difference is in the way this album has been mixed to the last one; the heavier elements of the bands sound have been dragged to the front of the sound, with blast beats and Industrial styled riffs leading the charge rather than supporting it as was the case on Empyrean. The orchestration still adds volume to the overall sound, but is more the passenger this time around. This gives the album is given a more chaotic yet urgent feel that isn't dissimilar to Fleshgod Apocalypse's stellar album 'Labyrinth' from last year. The hook-based catchiness of the clean vocals may be toned down, but the music itself makes up for with more memorable riffs and flurries of strings that engage the listener well.

'Alithea' has a great Fear Factory meets The Defiled type riff. The songwriting and structuring of this band is damn near perfect. Yes, the clean vocals might be auto-tuned, but even that sound lends something to the band's Cyber Metal type palette. The detail in the orchestration that manages to weave a charging riff with beautiful string sections keeps the album three dimensional. 'Zoticus' starts in such a gentle way before the guitars come in to fill in the gaps. It's a ballad, but not a wimpy one. Rather, it lends to the telling of the story just as it should. Haters of synths will despise this song, but if you like your Metal being tweaked, the layers of sound on show will be satisfying.

'Terrae' brings the heavy back, though it sounds a bit similar to other Mechina songs, with the inclusion of female vocal lines. It's not quite a lower point on the album, primarily because the flow of the story and the music is uninterrupted. It does little to loosen the grip on your imagination. 'Tartarus' is very much the same, with the aforementioned female vocals adding an almost ethnic feel to the songs. All the while the drumming and guitars keep the rhythm fast enough and constant enough for any Metalhead. The delicate keys and sombre beat at the end of the song are a nice touch.

'Phedra' features a good use of both vocal styles, with the quick transitions between them feeling rather dynamic. Musically it's great. The band have a very cinematic quality that has carried on through their past works to this album and has remained at a very high standard. 'Thales' brings in some very welcome blast beats and tremolo-picked guitar riffs, showing more of their Death Metal leanings. The ominous choir in the background and the epic feel of the album really helps bring the story of the album to a head. It's definitely the most intense song on the album so far, and the most lyrically ominous; "Humans have squandered any chance to find peace, Now let them reap what they sow." being one of my favourite lines in the song. Everything hollows out, leaving only the atmospheric effects five minutes in, giving the calm before the climactic storm.

'Erebus' takes the intensity of the previous song and focuses it into a jarring whirlwind of staccato riffs and punctuating orchestration before 'Amyntas' brings the tale home for the short, hauntingly gorgeous closing track 'Actaeon', which features no Metal elements, rather serving as a fitting close to a great trilogy of albums. At the end of the day, last year's album 'Empyrean' had a touch more impact to it, but 'Xenon' is not a let down by any stretch of the imagination. This record, I can recommend as highly as it's predecessor, and though this album is less of an instant gratification, it has a lot of value to offer to the more attentive listener.

Rating: 8/10

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