Qrixkuor left an impression on listeners with their 2016 EP Three Devils Dance, which offered up dense and twisting death metal that attempted to have a bit more structure and riffs underneath the usual wall of sound. In the years that followed the original lineup would collapse, leading founder S. to continue the band as a solo endeavor before later bringing in DBH (Grave Miasma, Adorior) and VHK (Vassafor, Temple Nightside) into the mix. If you’re going to attempt to continue to push the boundaries of sprawling and dense death metal these two seem like the right musicians to bring onboard as they know how to contribute to lengthy arrangements and keep them interesting, and that is showcased throughout Qrixkuor’s full-length debut Poison Palinopsia. Consisting of two tracks that are twenty-four minutes in length, this album packs as many riffs and tense build-ups in one of its songs as many in the genre attempt to achieve over ten to eleven tracks. It demands a lot of its audience, requiring a level of focus to make sense of the madness, but those willing to dive down the rabbit hole and peel back the layers will find a level of craftmanship behind this material that speaks for itself.
Cavernous and dense death metal saw a resurgence around a decade ago, with plenty of bands failing to offer much of substance once you dove beneath the sheer wall of sound and distortion. But those that have managed to stand out over time have riffs and complex song structures waiting to be discovered underneath the murk and noise, and this is the approach Qrixkuor takes. These songs justify their length, regularly shifting gears from a whirlwind of blasting instrumentation to more methodical, slower riffs that prove to be just as dark and foreboding in their tonality. S. has also incorporated some orchestral elements into the mix, working with actual musicians rather than using samples, and while these didn’t immediately jump out at me on first listen compared to some of the more muscular and jagged riffing I found they added to the haunting and twisted aesthetic that became more prominent as I familiarized myself with the material. What works well for Poison Palinopsia is its ability to consistently bludgeon you into submission with both brute force and a hazier almost psychedelic wall of reverb, where even the calmer moments come across as a bit twisted and don’t give you much time to catch your breath. In the wrong hands the instrumentation would all merge together into an incomprehensible mess, but with Greg Chandler’s handiwork there’s just enough space for the details to come through while still coming through as absolutely immense.
Poison Palinopsia finds S. taking over vocals for the first time, and while there are plenty of low growls on display, he also brings some higher screams into the mix. There are some differences in pitch if you listen to this album and Three Devils Dance back-to-back, but the overall approach remains similar enough that it’s a seamless transition between the two. For newcomers, what this means is screams and growls that are drenched in echo and seem to hover slightly above the instrumentals, coming through as bursts of madness and violence. In some ways the vocals might be the most normal part about Qrixkuor, but the power of the performance will still leave an impact.
Qrixkuor’s debut refines just about every aspect of its earlier material and pushes it towards sprawling arrangements that could act as albums on their own. It isn’t necessarily experimental or avant-garde, still channeling what you might expect of a murky and dense death metal album, yet the way the songs twist and bend still make this have a higher barrier of entry than most. Those that want to throw themselves headlong into material that feels like it can transport you to truly nightmarish places will find this delivers on the potential showcased earlier in the band’s career and justifies its length where so many others in the genre don’t. I am curious to see if S. goes even further with the orchestral elements and interludes as that seems like an area that can be further exploited, but whether he does or not this remains a stunning achievement. Poison Palinopsia is available from Invictus Productions and Dark Descent Records.
-Review by Chris Dahlberg
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