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True Bay Area Black Metal - 90%

Roffle_the_Thrashard, January 13th, 2015

I met my friend R (rhythm guitarist of Xenotaph) in the summer of 2014. He showed me this old, beat up guitar of his that had but one pickup on it. While we were sitting around, he played a few riffs of his and a slow somber acoustic-like melody. It got stuck in my head. It turns out that it was the opening melody of "Violation," one the songs on Vitae Iactura. He never told me this was one of his band's songs at the time, but I decided to look up his band's Bandcamp page. Needless to say, I was extremely impressed.

Many black metal bands of today are constantly being compared to bands such as Darkthrone, Burzum, Mayhem, Bathory, etc. I believe that Xenotaph have material on this EP that is comparable to these bands and their related artists. I can feel the same raw and intense energy that albums like "A Blaze In The Northern Sky" and "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas" have, as I did with "Vitae Iactura." You can really tell that the members of Xenotaph who played on his EP were heavily influenced by these monumental bands.

The band's force is graspable and bearable, yet still very powerful, and that is something that few bands can put into their music. Some riffs do feel repeated, such as the middle interlude of "Vitae Iactura" and the beginning of "Only Know." The songs have nice contrasts within themselves and can haunt you for days as you sit and contemplate them. You can truly feel the dry coldness of each number as it plays.

The guitar playing done by R and Z is very good. It seems as if they are on the same mental wave-length and they sound very tight. Even on loose and and legato riffs, they hold it together. The bass tones of have been promptly left out, which disappoints me, but black metal was never known for grade A production. As a drummer however, my hat is off to G. The manner in which he pounds out the structure of these songs is amazing. Even when playing fast and relentlessly, he never loses control, and his double bass pedal rhythms are spot-on. The best tracks here are "Vitae Iactura" and "Violation."

All in all, Vitae Iactura is a fantastic EP. If this band improves its playing even more than what was forcefully demonstrated here, then they just might release a perfect album. I do think that 7:45 was a bit too much for an outro however, but it shows that these men are dedicated to their trade. Other than that, I am amazed and quite satisfied. All hail Xenotaph!

Wow... - 90%

0nlyDeathIsReal, June 13th, 2013

Xenotaph are a three-piece black metal horde hailing from the Bay Area, California. Although this EP is their first recording, I am astounded with how well-written the music and lyrics are. The production is very clean sounding, every instrument cuts through the mix well, while the vocals are easily audible. Guitar riffs are the strong point of the album. Cold, melancholic melodies destroy the listener's hope and optimism, inducing nightmares and thoughts of suicide. The drums seem to be there just to keep time, as most of the drum lines are just mid-paced blast beats that sound similar to Craft or Sargeist. The lyrics are mostly discernible through Z's tortured screams, and that is definitely a good thing. The pessimistic, misanthropic lyrics are some of the most impressive I've ever read. Overall, I am pleasantly surprised with how dark and foreboding this album turned out to be.

The guitar-work is where this EP really shines. It consists of dark, eery riffing similar to that of Darkthrone or early Deathspell Omega. With that said, the guitars never become dull or repetitive thanks to the implementation of clean guitar parts on "Vitae Iactura" and even some thrash riffs on "Only Know". The vocals are rather unique, taking the form of discernible mid-pitched rasps rather than the typical high shriek. These vocals complement the well-written lyrics.

The few complaints I have with the EP are minor. Firstly, although the drums keep time perfectly, the beats aren't very imaginative and tend to repeat throughout the course of the album. However, this does not take away from the overall listening experience. Also, the guitars on "Violation" are slightly out of sync. Again, this is just a minor complaint, as this album is one of the best I've heard in a long time.

Overall, Xenotaph's "Vitae Iactura" is one of the best first recordings I've ever heard. The great sound quality, atmosphere, and musicianship show a band with limitless potential. I cannot wait to see what Xenotaph offers in the future.