Genre: Avant-technical metallic hardcore
Full length: The Primordial Blues
Format: Cassette, CD, digital
Label: Nefarious Industries
Release date: August 18, 2023
I’ll admit I wasn’t prepared for how left field and eclectic this album was. At first it may strike you as a convoluted mess but eventually it comes across as more cohesive. “The Primordial Blues” is extremely loud, discordant and caterwauling, but this doesn’t negate the ideations involved with coalescing genres that would seem incompatible while writing unanticipated time changes and dissenting improvisational phrases. You can hear how receptive Oxx is to new ideas sans the need to be repeatedly told.
Oxx is a technical/avant garde metal-hardcore band based in Aarhus, Denmark. Their fourth album is described as “a monument to misery and a harbinger of perpetual sadness” and the sonic equivalent of “getting blackout drunk and beating yourself to death with a Thomas Pynchon door stopper”. Despite the fact that both of these descriptions are accurate, I find the album to be far more nuanced. Their origins in the punk and metal scenes at home make them an apt example of how underground bands evolve without consciously trying to make their songs more appealing to the general public.
There is no doubt “The Primordial Blues” wasn’t written to appeal to mainstream audiences or to appeal to radio listeners. Jazz, avant-garde music, progressive rock and rap are fused with metal and hardcore in a concept as schizophrenic and unsettling as the way it’s all arranged. It’s evident the progressions depict mental illness and its effect on one’s everyday surroundings, with perception of reality gradually distorted until disorder sets in. This album is a soundtrack to succumbing to insanity.
It's striking how the arrangements allow one mood to briefly set in, leading you to believe things would progress in this direction, then suddenly shift to a mood that seems unrelated to the previous one. This bait and switch appears repeatedly throughout the recording, and in many ways, right down to the brief and explosive lead guitar excursions followed by another sudden change of direction.
As they’re aesthetically written, the lyrics convey themes of perception gradually unraveling and collapsing, growing more pronounced with the addition of each new gathering of musical influences. Throughout each composition, the listener is already left with the impression of being dragged through the wringer; the lyrics only serve to reinforce these sentiments, offering the listener no respite from the inevitable disintegration of reality we know awaits us at this journey's end. “The Primordial Blues” is brutal and extreme not just in terms of its sound and production, but also its storytelling.
I emphatically recommend checking “The Primordial Blues” out at least once, along with all of Oxx’s previous releases, if your curiosity is aroused enough to experience the sound of sanity breaking down and never quite regaining itself, not for a long time. –Dave Wolff
Alex Bossen: Vocals, guitars, synthesizers, piano, samples, string arrangements
Anders Frodo S. Mikkelsen: Bass
Martin Aagaard Jensen: Drums, samples
Kristine Kier: Violin, viola
Emalia Slusarczyk: Cello
Adrian Christensen: Double bass
Esben Tjalve: Piano
1. The Coast
2. The Song of the Rivers
3. The Fishing Village
4. The Lake and Everything Around It
5. The Haruspex
6. The Flagellant
7. The Hypostasis
8. The Primordial Blues