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Xysma: the great unrecognized treasure of Finland’s underground past. They were putting out filthy proto-deathgrind demos before Abhorrence had even formed, and were making pop death n’ roll a year later. This here second full length, First & Magical, sounds like Reek of Putrefaction-era Carcass performing Wolverine Blues except with way catchier, poppier, tendancies. The band themselves state in the album sleeve that they were influenced by the Beach Boys, and against all odds, it’s believable, and it works.
And why shouldn’t metal sound like this more often? This isn’t death metal that you’re going to want to mosh to; this is chill out music you’re going to want to bump with a few oat sodas on a hot afternoon. Don’t be misled, though, because that isn’t to say it doesn’t rock as hard as any of the aforementioned bands (yes, including the Beach Boys), oh trust me it does. Opener, “One More Time”, is all I needed for an introduction to this band to know I was sold. The opening build up is so bursting and memorable that it seems inconceivable to think that the song could evolve into an onslaught of blasting grind, but it does. At this point in their career, it doesn’t sound as though Xysma were determinedly abandoning their extreme metal past (which they would go on to do just a few years afterwards), but rather using this foundation as a playground to experiment with all sorts of weird ideas.
Is this album really only half an hour long? I’ve only ever listened to my vinyl copy and the whole thing just washes by in a blur of feel-good vibes and memorable riffs. The pace of the album is smartly consistent, proceeding mostly at a fast, but controlled rate; the conventional structures occasionally exploding off into storm, but always weathering it. “Turning” busts out with a thick Sabbath-like riff with extra groove and progressively loses its shit throughout the song, culminating in a wicked awesome solo. There isn't really ‘that fast grind song’, and having one would basically betray what Xysma were doing here, which was creating something very much their own. They may have found their beginnings in the underground death metal scene, but they didn’t seem to have any intention of staying there.
How Xysma managed to make this absurd dichotomy convincing is beyond me, but I commend them endlessly for doing so. I only wish they retained this sound for longer, or stayed active a few years – alas, let history speak for itself. What we can be thankful for is the fact that this album and a few other Xysma releases have been recently (and very nicely) reissued by SVART Records, that perhaps a new appreciation might grow for this all but forgotten legend.