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if all else fails, rob your neighbours - 86%

RapeTheDead, June 22nd, 2016

Paroxsihzem is one of those bands that appears to be lurking a little bit under the radar, despite being on Dark Descent at one point and playing in a style that's slowly building up a fanbase. I suppose that's part of the problem; between Auroch, Mitochondrion, Antediluvian, Phobocosm and Adversarial (among many others I am forgetting), Canada isn't exactly hurting for filthy, atmospheric death metal. Paroxsihzem have the vibe down pat, but their eponymous debut was missing a certain special something to help them stand out in a scene already immersed with talent. I'm not going to say Paroxsihzem was a bad album by any means, the vocals sound like they're coming out of a chasm and the music is chaotic, but I can't get much further than a couple of songs before I want to hear something else. No moments in the album really stuck in my head, either. When I listen to Abyss of Excruciating Vexes, though, my first thought as the album ends is to start over and listen again.

Paroxsihzem have really stepped up their game on this, and I'm pleased to say they can hold their own with the heavyweights now. The shorter running time of Abyss (22 minutes) makes it go down a little easier. Their full-length was only 37 minutes, but in this style that's exhausting. Beyond that, though, it appears the best way to sound as good as your contemporaries is to just straight-up steal one of their band members. Adversarial's bassist has joined Paroxsihzem on drums for this release, and his drumming is at the very least more pronounced. The previous drummer had a lot of stuff going on in his rhythms, but on the self-titled the bass drums were somewhat thin so the low end just sounded like a chaotic slurry. Not only can you actually distinguish between the kick and the snare on this EP, but the cymbals are actually used in noticeable and interesting ways. At times it seems like the drums go off-beat or wait a little too long to switch the beat or something, but the sloppiness adds to the charm of the music. Perhaps it is intentional? Maybe it's just me who hears it.

Aside from his contributions on the drums, Abyss (his stage name is also in the title, fuck that's confusing eh) also seems to have slipped a little bit of Adversarial influence in the riffing as well. "Dillanties Torture" and "Bellicose Psychosis" both have some clangy, dissonant riffs that are dissimilar to anything really heard in previous Paroxsihzem songs. They're catchy in the same weird way Adversarial's riffs are, and when you combine them with the drumming, you could be forgiven for believing that this is just a mere Adversarial worship band at this point. Fortunately, even with all the not-so-subtle nods to their fellow Torontonians, Abyss of Excruciating Vexes still manages to retain a personality of its own. The twangy death metal is pieced together with the rumbling chaos that makes up Paroxsihzem's core. "Isolation" even finishes off with something resembling a normal metal riff! Ending on a slightly more conventional note with that song (as well as the Arkhon Infaustus cover) helps highlight just how suffocating and discordant the rest of the album is.

Snuggling up to Adversarial was certainly a wise move, but it may not even been the main reason why this EP is a significant step forward for the band. The most glaring weakness of the band's earlier work was the production quality; funnily enough, Adversarial have also been the victim of botched production jobs in the past. The drums sounded like a complete mess on Paroxsihzem and the vocals constantly overpowered the guitars to the point where it was irritating. A sense of chaos could be felt, but it was not chaos resulting from evolving, convoluted songwriting. Instead, the chaos stemmed from the fact that there was just too much shit going on in the mix and it was a chore to make sense of it. Abyss does not have these problems. The snare has just the right amount of ping, you can distinguish between individual drum hits for the most part, and the vocals are dialled back much more. Before they were an all-encompassing roar, now they just mutter and growl a little more in the background. No longer striving to be in the spotlight, the vocals are much more aware of their overall role in the music. Everything comes through much clearer as a result of giving a more even balance to the sound, and it makes for Paroxsihzem's most quality material to date.

In summation: this is good. It sounds like Adversarial. You should buy it while you still can, can't imagine this'll be in print much longer. Paroxsihzem can finally hang out in the big kid treehouse.