NOXIS – Expanse of Hellish Black Mire (2020)REVIEW

A wolven horde in sheep’s tie-dye merch, the greater bonking stomp-fest of United States paleolithic “mid-paced brutal death metal” today most often conveys a proud bastard lineage within the confines of (a deep misunderstanding of) 2000’s hardcore song arrangement. The outliers, or the bookable and hype-worthy followers therein, have (intentionally) stepped away from their nascent technical convictions sliding their gifts under the table via stalking, slime-ridden Finnish death metal burn. This is yet a mutation, a nucleotide slurry with infinite arrangement like any other, and yet only a few fully functional forms arise from this now observable genetic death metal expression. Death metal is not antihumanism, after all, and it will ultimately be the apt hands of technicians and songwriters that outlast. Though they’re not yet crafting their own distinct rhythmic language the fellows in Cleveland, Ohio-based death metal trio Noxis offer an exemplar twist upon club-waving brutality in craft of tuneful, sentient ignorance; Their first official release, ‘Expanse of Hellish Black Mire‘, is satisfyingly percussive and directional as a result of poorly masked technical ability and strong taste as they birth a clutch of circa ’92 tech-death metal grinders that furrow brows just deep enough to appear Neanderthal in design.

And of course I don’t meant to suggest a band would “play down” their ability (much) on purpose but, it is certainly a thing in recent years where restraint is absolutely helpful in crafting music that isn’t simply poorly bonded guitar exercises atop over-practiced rudiments. We know the men of Noxis are intelligent not only for their slight relation to Inoculation but also for the ‘old school’ prog-death glint in the eyes of their first demo tape (‘Necrotizing‘, 2019) a similarly effective bruiser underpinned by unmistakable rhythmic talent. A taped rehearsal moment from a few months previous to that demo release helps to make more lucid the vibe and skill of the band in their earliest stages of compatibility and form, where you’ll feel the early Cynic and Death-adjacent talent in their intentions and literally in their composition at the time. Dolts would just go brutal and thug it out in party mode when faced with the reality of “caveman” metal at large but Noxis have taken some of the same notes Undeath this last year, finding an acceptable medium to convey memorable guidance within each song, be it a moshable brutal death clobbering or a bounding hook that only becomes more infectious with time. I won’t suggest that ‘Expanse of Hellish Black Mire’ is completely there in terms of stepping outside of formative phase but, rather than Noxis show incredible potential for applying those ‘old school’ technical and brutal aptitudes to grooving, slapping and energizing death metal songs.

What do they sound like? Think of the first Faceless Burial album, the most recent material from Phobophilic (who are likewise full of potential) and then consider some of the more grimy, spanking brutal but mid-paced stuff from Mortal Wound, Cystic, and especially Gutless. At the very least you can be assured you’re not getting yet another lazy hardcore band’s take on brutal death, these are complex and effective distillations of (again) United States brutal death modus which is not exclusively 90’s and classic filthiest pre-‘The Karelian Isthmus’ Finnish death metal movements. Tomb-like, clattering, and driven as much by unmercifully drop-tuned guitar riffs as they are by a mind-flaying snare clap the four song and ~14 minute wallop here is potent for every second that it plays. It certainly isn’t stupid shit but it is dense enough that you’ll probably want to gear up on brutal death essentials before you can be sure what you’re getting into. Where to go first? Honestly, you won’t have to go much further than Cryptopsy‘s ‘Blasphemy Made Flesh’ to get what makes Noxis both classic and up to date in terms of influence, though it’ll also suggest my only criticism of this EP: Discovering their own distinct rhythmic language, that trademark whip beyond the norm, is the missing piece here. If they find it, and it doesn’t have to be elegant, I figure their potential will hit closer to terminal velocity.

For my own taste “Incubated Disgust” is the strongest piece in terms of greater rhythmic mapping and this is unsurprisingly also the moldiest, crunchiest song of the four. “Guts Liquify” is the other side of their oeuvre, still a sprawling main riff guiding its initial attack but the slugging brutal death sections in the second half provide the distinction the piece needs from its predecessor. These are probably the strongest tracks on the album but I’m still partial to the first single from the record’s reveal, “Dream Infested” and frankly just because the snare pops so hard on that song. We’ve gotten more than a proof of concept here, a viable strategy to go paleolithic death-clobberin’ without losing precision grip upon the tools of the trade circa these last two decades. If they keep it up no doubt they’ll have their ‘Speciation’-level ripper in hand soon enough. A high recommendation for the exuberant sledge of todays realization and in view of even greater potential.

High recommendation (78/100)

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.
TITLE:Expanse of Hellish Black Mire
LABEL(S):Rotted Life Records,
Pulverised Records
RELEASE DATE:October 30th, 2020
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp [Rotted Life]
Bandcamp [Pulverised]
GENRE(S):Death Metal

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