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Canadian black/death metal is fast becoming one of my favourite genres over the years, with bands such as Antediluvian and Adversarial releasing atmospheric yet utterly crushing material. Paroxsihzem was formed in 2007, and with their self-titled 2010 demo, they have managed to capture my attention as well, with this year seeing the band release their self-titled debut full length album under fast-rising label Dark Descent Records.
An inspection of the tracklist reveals that the tracks on the album are similar to that of the demo, and one would quickly realise that the material on Paroxsihzem (the full length) are a re-recording of the songs that the band has written a couple of years back on the demo. But this is certainly not a reason for those who have already listened to the demo to not bother check out the album, as the material on the full length present a rather different experience compared to the demo.
Unlike the demo, the atmosphere that is present on the full length is much more crushing, much more suffocating, with a more low-end heavy sound that asphyxiates the listener under the intense pressure of the oppressive riffs. The opening Intro sets the ominous mood for the album, but once Vanya begins, all hell breaks loose. While those who have heard the demo would realise that the speed that the band goes at is slightly slower here, the band more than makes up with the intensity in the music, as guitarist Impugnor and drummer The Desolate One providing all the crushing goodness that is present. The similarities to their compatriots such as Antediluvian and other such atmospheric black/death metal bands such as Bestial Raids are easily heard, not only in the music but also in the songwriting and the deep, throaty vocals of Krag, bringing to mind such legends as Incantation to mind as well at times.
Like mentioned, the atmosphere on the album is one of the key elements in making Paroxsihzem such a successful release, with a constant dark cloud that hangs over the release. The band cleverly makes use of spoken samples on the album as well to reinforce the haunting and dangerous mood on the album, on top of the frantic trem-picked riffs and the non-stop blasting of The Desolate One, who provides a martial feel at times such as on Nausea. Album closer Aokigahara is easily the most crushing track, and is the perfect track that displays the band’s style of music.
With Paroxsihzem being a re-recording of old songs from their demos, it certainly leaves fans of the band craving for new material. Fortunately, the dynamics of the band after the inclusion of The Desolate One, and the entire new sound that the band has produced in the playing of these materials have provided a temporary relief for the time being.
With bands like Mitochondrion and Antediluvian well under way, Canada has become a sort of Mecca for clamorous, repulsive, and enormously atmospheric death metal which thrives heavily upon its claustrophobic, cavernous nature more so than the intricacy of its inscription. Enter Paroxsihzem, another ugly and unbridled force of subterranean nature, and you've got a slightly more blackened spin on the style, thanks to the incorporation of airier tremolo textures applied to the morbid surge of death picking, and the prevalent blasted sequences here that give more of an impressive of the unbridled filth persistent in the Scandinavian tyrants of the earlier 90s.
Granted, death metal is still the dominant force, due to the enormous, resonant, stalactite-shaking guttural vocals, which take on a timbre not unlike Incantation during their Craig Pillard prime. In fact, these almost sound like an ominous earthquake shaking with protracted intonations while the guitars and drums keep far busier beneath. The guitars are extremely earthen, dense and layered to the point that careful observation is required to really pick out everything. Crushing chugs and grooves persist to split up the faster sequences, like the intro to "Deindividuation" which swaggers along with an almost overbearing doom/death force. The tremolo death metal sequences are more melodic than you might think, cycling in depressive but warmer patterns that attract the ear despite lacking much novelty in their structure or progressions. The album is so very adamantly deep and bass-heavy already that I often found it difficult to make out the lines of that instrument, but you hear it well enough like a floe of wet sediment against the chords.
Interestingly, the music is most chaotic from the 'bottom up', meaning the drums are constantly blasting and grinding are feel more deft and athletic than the guitars or vocals, a characteristic that is crucial to how cluttered, dissonant and confusing it all feels. In listening through Paroxsihzem, I felt I was a part of some psychological experiment being conducted in an obscure, underground bunker, testing the limits of sanity in tight spaces or under darkness while I was in a drugged stupor. An aural enema being observed and recorded by an emotionless team of experts trying to core out my humanity like it were an apple. The churning, voluminous aggression of the Canadians is overwhelming, morbid as fuck, and it never lets up, even when the band spits out some haunted sample over the tremulous furor. If I had one clear criticism, it's that like a lot of bands in this niche, the focus is more heavily on the atmosphere than the quality of individual note sequences, and thus this debut only feels effectively haunting due to its complete, crushing lack of light, rather than cleverly crafted riff progressions.
As this approach to atmospheric death becomes more widespread, the returns have seemingly begun to diminish, but that aside, Paroxsihzem is still a solid, shifting nightmare worth looking into if you're a fan of any of the bands I previously name dropped, or others like Portal, Molested, Funebrarum, Anhedonist, Muknal, etc.