There have always been two elements to Ixion’s sound – the funeral doom slog and the uplifting keyboard vibes to balance it all out. It worked nicely on Into the Void, which was more what most would consider to be an outright doom album even though the clean vocals were already creeping in. And it worked on 2015’s Enfant de la Nuit which was more evidently the now familiar Ixion mix between their doom roots and what I can only describe as ‘Air-like’ synth side. Remember them? Moon Safari and all that? No? Well listen to Ixion and imagine it without the doomy bits and you’ll get a pretty good idea of what it sounds like. It may also be no coincidence that both bands are French but, either way, the Enfant de la Nuit skilfully hooked me in when it came out by virtue of some shockingly pleasant, and frankly unexpectedly well arranged, interplay between those saurian riffs, keyboards and cosmically synthesised vocals.

Ixion has a charming painting-by-numbers approach that sometimes feels all too simple but that the same time it’s not afraid to throw in some crushing doom guitars. It then scatters its rhythmic clean vocals and drifting synths in a melange that some might find instantly off-putting but can reward the intrepid looking for something a bit different – it’s all somewhere been progressive synth pop, doom and easy listening. This time might hopes were reasonably high by comparison to when I first stared at the odd looking cover of Enfant de la Nuit (er, a boy lying asleep in bed – on a spaceship with some asteroids floating outside the window…). The new album, confidently entitled Return and with a cover of billowing clouds, looked just the ticket to continue my Ixion adventure.

It is indeed a pleasant listen. Very much travelling along the same trajectory as Enfant but with the doom riffs and the Jean Michel Jarre-style keyboards now inextricably entwined. But whereas Enfant sounded like it had bumps and kinks that added to its offbeat personality, it feels like Ixion have now done away with those to become the perfectly well groomed beast it was always threatening to become. In some ways I think this is the Ixion that could perhaps be more saleable – it’s almost something you could offer across the coffee table for a bit of relaxing background music (I won’t do as far as to say dinner parties) or for a bit of late night relaxation – despite the occasional need for some of the tracks (first track Out Of The Dark) to chug out and get those old riffs working their muscles again. This is perhaps a bit too tame for my liking, despite the admittedly heavy chords, and without the quirks that made the last album weirdly fun. Either way I can definitely live with a bit of Ixion but for the moment, until I get a bit of time to maybe give Return a few more spins and see if there’s something I’m missing, I’m most likely be returning to Enfant de la Nuit when In fancy my Ixion fix.

(6/10 Reverend Darkstanley)