BLACK HOLE DEITY – Lair of Xenolich (2021)REVIEW

When the momentum of a seemingly indomitable creative force intent on honing and redefining the groundwork of their ancient influences begins to wane and years pass without any fruiting bodies appearing in hand it is natural to assume that fandom and fealty wanes along with the twitch of the public eye. It’d only seem this way because the balance of prolific creation versus quality statement weighs upon the aging musician, not the consumer. As we’ve seen time and again this last decade folks who’d dropped their gig in the late 90’s and/or mid 2000’s, as moshable brutal death metal took precedent, often return to form entirely timeless in method; Supporting the phenomenal impact that foundational learning records like ‘Formulas Fatal to the Flesh’ instilled into an entire generation of fellows looking to apply increasingly technical ideas to sinister groove-centric tastes was far more vital than realized at the time. Waiting nearly a decade beyond the USDM high watermark event that was Chaos Inception‘s ‘The Abrogation‘ hasn’t dissolved my fandom, though impatience certainly leaves a void to be filled — I won’t suggest that this new project from ex-members, Black Hole Deity, is a spiritual successor to that peak but rather a return to a specific mindset where unleashed skillset and taste level still offered an extremely high standard to classic death metal forms. Their first official EP ‘Lair of Xenolich’ is evocative of this moment in time where the ‘old guard’ and the new were still cultivating a fair exchange of ideas and pushing death metal into new and exciting otherwordly realms.

Although bassist/rhythm guitarist Cam Pinkerton (ex-Zealotry) and vocalist Chris White (Blood Stained Dusk, ex-Wormreich) left Chaos Inception around 2015 they wouldn’t officially form Black Hole Deity until 2019. I’ll assume this material was at least partially developed during that space of time and they’d smartly held back until the full band was decided upon between Calcemia‘s Alec Cordero on leads and impressive drummer Mike Heller (Malignancy, Azure Emote) factored in. If you’re not familiar with these musicians and their recent work in various projects the best way to sum up their addition is that we can assume by sight alone that Black Hole Deity is “active” and attack-heavy enough that it’ll sate the ‘notes per second’ requirements of technical death metal musicians. From my point of view the right reference points would be Abysmal Dawn and perhaps Azarath, each balancing an exaggerated Morbid Angel-esque brutally swinging temperament with a more dynamic tempo map and wandering-yet-technical lead guitar work. The United States death metal arena hasn’t gone wanting for this type of death metal within the last two decades so, this first impression might seem less special than it is ’til we’ve dug into their brutal death metal influenced grooves. In fact that’d be the best way to sum up the potential clinging point for many technical/brutal death metal fans, these are thug heavy skull-bruising grooves that develop in surprisingly sophisticated ways once the pumice showers and flailing lava strokes allow for some heaving room.

How fitting is it to land upon a song named “Railgun Combat” while musing over the age of Quake II Arena and ‘Love of Lava‘? Well, the main reason I’d highlight this song in particular is that it showcases the versatile fleet-footed movements of Heller, a major point of differentiation for those who might be expecting Black Hole Deity to flatly resemble Chaos Inception. The galloping triplets and groove metal riffing beneath prog-death guitar solos within make for something decidedly tightened and technical compared to the free-spilling brutality expected. “Multiverse Incantations” makes the central groove of the song and its modulations the major musical voicing of the piece, twisting into Carcass-esque ground swells to break up the tension that all of the perfectly timed hammer-chugging produces. The amount of detail put into these two songs suggests a clear “moshable but technical” direction for the band if they were to pivot towards a full-length next. I’m not sure I’m on board for such a groove focused approach, it does kind of become a machine rather than a natural disaster when things become too rigid and polished (see: Abysmal Dawn). “Razed Earth Edict” and the title track on the other hand suggest more of an unearthly vibe, a dose of progressive death metal DNA in their movements that justifies the otherwise entirely distracting middle étude of “Hypersleep Dementia”, violins and all. As I’d suggested earlier this EP can be taken in as a easily read statement of intent but its finer virtues might take a while to begin leaping out from your speakers as a fully formed musical identity. Without a doubt Black Hole Deity are a band to watch and ”Lair of Xenolich’ is an easily enjoyed introduction to their sound. A moderately high recommendation.

Moderately high recommendation. (75/100)

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.
TITLE:Lair of Xenolich
LABEL(S):Everlasting Spew Records
RELEASE DATE:February 5th, 2021
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp [All Formats]
GENRE(S):Death Metal,
Technical Death Metal

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