I could bang on about how this was an experimental release from the power behind Igorrr, how much of a headfcuk it is and why you need to be on happy drugs to listen to it. But the description I’m really looking for is, well, that this is at times and perhaps even in its entirety, absolutely fecking breath taking. Let’s start by pathetically trying to triangulate the sound into words with reference to other bands. Devin Townsend is the obvious gravitational influence, the lush baroque of Thy Catafalque, then… er Meshuggah… Cradle of Filth… (or maybe that’s just me) and those warp nine female backing vocals from the opening sequence of Star Trek….
You get the idea. Or probably not. Likely you won’t care and within two or three minutes you’ll be grappling for reference points as desperately as the next person. Perhaps I should start by saying this is a very French approach to music – a country that so often spins out musical sounds that seem to auto-spawn heavy metal sub-genres at random. Here baroque choral layers are booted into the middle of a thundering rolling percussive assault, courtesy of Isarnos (Thomas Jacquelin), while Igorrr mastermind Laure Le Prunenec (here aka Rïcïnn) and his collaborator Laurent Lunoir (taking the lead as Öxxö Xööx) battle it out on the airwaves in a tumult that sounds more like a pseudo religious euphoria in glorious stained glass technicolour than a heavy metal side project.
Add in some intros and outros that might even define some of your favourite tracks, possibly even albums, here casually, almost absentmindedly, thrown into the mix as a pebble might be hurled into a wind-turned sea. Then apply an incredible mix of growls, rasps, vocal chants, chorals and the stunning vocal range of Lunoir into kaleidoscopic arrangements of sublime perfection. The nine-minute cacophonous delight of NS2 (is that a Blind Guardian influence I hear towards the end there…?) would be worth mentioning here were it not for the pointlessness of pulling out individual tracks from this spiritually enriching delight of an album.
The lyrics – in English and a separate language invented for Öxxö Xööx – then pour forth from the haemorrhaging data bank of sound in the form of complex but highly infectious choral arrangements. Tremolos are delicately picked at the side lines, and yes, this is heavy – as in heavy metal – with clanging riffs, albeit sometimes skulking at the back of the circus as if waiting for a chance to storm forth for a bit of reflected glory before being gently muscled out by the frantic, heaving fervour of the dancing techno-industrial tribal beats, wailing lead guitars and feast of vocal arrangements.
When I first (very fleetingly) flicked through the Öxxö Xööx’s previous two efforts for a taste of what I was letting myself in for, I must admit I thought this was going to be an effort to get through. As I sat there open-mouthed listening to the final bars of closing track 999, it struck me that, as well as emerging from what would have easily made my end of year list had I pulled my finger out to do the review in time, this is an oddity. A progressive experimental album that doesn’t feel like it needs any editing. Exceedingly clever, but which doesn’t feel like it’s an indulgence offered to the artists involved compared with so many prog outings where it feels like you’re on the outside looking in on some bloated musical escapade. This is a full-on entertainment ride from start to finish – a literal thrill a minute.
Is this piece of Willy Wonka Popping Candy Real Champagne Chewing Gum everlasting or will it just eventually fall tasteless from your mouth and stubbornly stick to the best new trousers of your musical psyche? Who knows… But frankly when something is this bed-wettingly awesome, does it matter? Simply ingest in both ears and avoid consuming other narcotics and operating heavy machinery while under the influence.
(9/10 Reverend Darkstanley)