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“Earth man, what a shit hole.” This brilliant intro taken from the Alien franchise consisting of the screeches of rats, underground sewage water sloshing around and the desolate spoken words sets the scene for the rest of the record to accordingly follow in its footsteps. IXXI are a confrontational band, one that sound similar to others, but have their small differences, that may go unnoticed unless you pay particular attention to their engaging sound, given the fact that this band perform and construct their sound around the idea of terrorism and total-fucking-devastation. Generally speaking, I don’t like to use curse, or swear words in my reviews, but nothing seems strong enough to display how F-U-C-K-I-N-G cancerous, grasping or gripping this record truly is. The nature of this sound, similar to that of unknown acts like Italy’s Murk, is to fuse black metal and hard rock together in an enticing manner. The material present here is some of the most fluent I’ve heard within the black metal scene, regardless of sub-genre discussions. The sound is one of pure unadulterated hatred and the consuming temperament of this record almost has me signing up on the dotted line to become a terrorist myself (hyperbole people, don’t complain).
IXXI began their black metal careers on a steady note, producing the self-titled effort which convinced me that this band has enough potential to release a classic of the modern day scene and, well, here it is! This is the classic that so many people have been waiting for. Although it isn’t a return to the old days, since, you know, there is some creativity and experimentation thrown into the tempestuous mixture, but it does invoke nostalgic and reflection which makes me think back to the so-called glory days of the industry, where bands like Darkthrone still sounded good and Varg hadn’t just been released from prison after committing a heinous crime. The old school vibe doesn’t necessarily mean this Swedish band sound aged or outdated, in actual fact, that sound fresher than 95% of the bands around today! The apt title, ‘Assorted Armament’ is phonetically expressive of the sorts of imagery this imaginative piece conjures up. In my head, as this record furiously pounds away, the musicians are using their instruments as weapons and their sound is mentally damaging just like a terrorists actions are physically damaging.
The subtle reference to the 9/11 attacks on New York probably won’t sit well with people who were directly affected by the incidents, or anyone who takes a firm stance on the events of that horrific day in history, but taken with a pinch of salt and the realisation that this is music, it isn’t physically damaging unless people take it out of context, then this is one of the most enjoyable records since the turn of the century and perhaps even beyond that, if we’re going to make bold statements. The content consists of some of the best black metal songs I’ve heard, or at least, can remember in the past few years. Although bands like Altar of Plagues and Fen, both of which I greatly enjoy, are pushing the envelop with new and adventurous sounds, IXXI like to take a more traditional route, opting to stick to what black metal is known for (despite the fact that IXXI use a crisp production to highlight the finely tuned aspects of the underbelly and the surface material), although they do make a habit of enforcing their lyrical content on to people, making this aspect of their game perhaps a bit more of an issue than it was in the early to mid 1990’s when the lyrics didn’t mean as much as the music and the plaudits were rightfully given to the instrumentation, as opposed to lyrical worship.
The lyrical themes of terrorism and warfare don’t only come across in the actual lyrics, but the physical play too. The instrumentation can be compared to some of the better known ‘raw’ acts of the second wave, where instrumentation meant a lot more than the lyrical content, though that had its advantages too; such as being able to portray the themes in a different manner. I don’t exactly consider the lyrical content imperative to IXXI however, although it does play a role in constructing the sound, I do believe it is a suitable reflection of their inquisitive and intoxicating sound. The major upside to this record is the crisp production. It gives a physical presence to the instrumentation, as if the guitars are literally punching you in the guts and the drums are physically pounding you to the ground in search of forgiveness and eventual mercy. There is no let up from the instrumentation. The guitars are a notable aspect of how IXXI don’t like to take their foot of the gas, instead, they press on from one lead to another, both displaying their awesome prowess and physical power. Listening to this record can be equated to trying to stand up to a professional fighter, you’re never going to knock it because it will sure as hell knock you harder.
The production is fantastic at highlighting the essence of the record - which exists in the sense of power. The guitars are given two types of heavy distortion. One which separates the first and second guitarist, allowing one to play a significantly higher pitched lead, and the other a lower, more demonstrative piece of the power behind the infectious guitars. The standard of play is fairly typical of black metal bands - one guitarist leads the more creative passages, whilst the other lays foundations alongside the audible bass. However typical this approach may be, when its performed correctly and creatively, there is no stopping its Trojan like ways. This war machine in the shape of IXXI, intent on devastation and destruction, is forceful and frighteningly catchy - a major positive of this black n’ roll effort. Songs like ‘Armageddon Nobility’ and ‘That We May Kill the Mocking World’ are the prime examples as they fly through the realms of catchiness with powerfully streaming guitars that lay down monstrous soundscapes. There are no superlatives left for this one. Essential.