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Candlelight Records represents a fair amount of bands and is considered a very strange label, if you ask me. The label is home to several bands I do enjoy, whilst also housing bands I find overrated, but appreciate the influence of and then bands I simply cannot stand. From Blut Aus Nord, to Emperor, and finally on to In Battle. Three very different bands, one label. Generally, I find that you can spot the potential of a band given the label they’re signed to. For instance, Profound Lore. Many people, myself included, recognise this label as being home to many experimental, but ultimately brilliant bands - like Altar of Plagues, Caïna and Winterfylleth to name but a few. IXXI, who’s name is a subtle reference to the events of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, are one band that represents the positive side of Candlelight Records. A band like this is probably deserving of higher cult status, but not like those of Profound Lore, the experimental types. Why? Well, IXXI aren’t exactly experimental. They maintain a very old school sound, that seems to incorporate black metal’s previous love for thrash and perhaps a dash of raw punk angst. Some might even refer to this talented Swedish band as black n’ roll, a relatively odd genre that has seen a recent emergence through bands like Darkthrone, the iconic Norwegian legends who’ve somewhat lost their way in the metal industry lately. Bands like IXXI don’t seem to be directly influenced by bands like Darkthrone and their dirty sound, but there must be some influence. Its almost undeniable.
So, IXXI are what so might called old school sounding. The only difference between this and a lot of bands nowadays that are aiming to regenerate the old vibe of black metal music is the fact that IXXI actually recreate some of the shrew mystery surrounding the sound of the old days. How they manage this however, is something that differs slightly from the old formulaic sound which emphasised itself through repetition and dark feelings. Whilst, yes, IXXI’s self-titled debut does ignite those dark flames of passion once again, it does it in a creative manner. There isn’t much repetition to be found on this record, which I found surprising at the time of discovery. I wholeheartedly expected this devilish Swedish seducer to lay down its own formulaic sound and base the atmosphere around that. Something along the lines of Darkthrone’s ‘Transilvanian Hunger’, if you will. The atmosphere on that legendary record was generated largely by repetitious guitars, hateful lyrics and vocals (even some repetition in the lyrics, which fixated the ideas behind them and made them appear more evil and demonic) and an indiscernible production that induced feelings of dread and woe within the tortured soul of the listener. IXXI adopt new approaches to an old genre, which is pleasant to hear. Although the self-titled record doesn’t represent IXXI’s best work (‘Assorted Armament’ is incredible people, pick it up), it does establish the band as one to watch in the future. ‘Elect Darkness’ is the latest offering from this tortured Swedish band, but I’ve not heard it as of yet, though I do plan on it. From what I’ve read, it isn’t a patch on the aforementioned ‘Assorted Armament’, so make of that what you will.
Anyway, the material present here is, for lack of a better word, catchy. The dirt and grime of the production, which adds a fantastic atmosphere to the soundscapes, is pivotal to the record and its classy instrumentation. Songs like ‘Investigating The Horrific’ with its Isengard style clean vocal chants, though these do not occur often (which come across as rather folk-ish), and the buzzing guitar riffs that take the listener on a trip through the circles of Hell, make the self-titled record an infectious piece. The reliance on catchy guitar leads never gets old, believe you me. The fantastically written songs, like ‘Ancient Spirits Are’ don’t tend to fixate on any particular instrument, though its obvious that the guitars are the greatest outlet IXXI have. No instrument is elusive, though the band still manages to surround themselves in mystery. Comparisons to acts like Aura Noir are bound to be made given the dirty and plagued sound that IXXI have, but I think this act are far more creative, and therefore dynamic with their punishing sound. Although the atmospheres never really alter (staying within the realms of destructive anarchy and annihilation by terrorism), they’re still impressive and thoroughly enjoyable. The sound mirrors the lyrical content, sounding chaotic and like a war machine trudging along towards the on looking crowd who’re facing total devastation in the shape of IXXI. I suppose, with the inspiration behind the band, that is bound to be the way things are. Apart from the unusual electronic based ‘Sectarian Trance’, which is ironically entrancing, this record is devious, destructive and detrimental.