QRIXKUOR – Zoetrope (2022)REVIEW

Die ewige Wiederkehr. — Bathed in cinematically charged stroboscopic light, the mysteries revealed by the crushing wheel in dizzying whorl herein depict an infinitesimal far-gone march of the mind unchained and destined for spiritualized insanity. With emphasis upon deterministic philosophical outcomes for the envenomed thinker, this entirely indeterminate physical passage to nihil resembles a parade away from the mediocrity of comfortable existence and forward without fear of death. The horror of our shared cyclic existence is a roaring machine and feature-length panoptic harass in the hands of London, England-area death metal duo Qrixkuor who press on with their longform howling acknowledgement of ghastly truths, a sinister outcome too dark and sprawling to offer any tangible reflection without devotion. ‘Zoetrope‘ is as thousand-armed as one would expect from the artist as they manage to follow-up with a markedly different conceptual undertaking which manages to reskin, restate and reinforce their core dissolution of death music tradition.

Consider this latest mLP from musician S. (Adorior) both a continuation and an abstraction from what we’d found on their debut full-length (‘Poison Palinopsia‘, 2021) an album which’d made it onto my Top 75 Albums of the Year setting the standard high going forward thanks to a duo of involved ~25 minute pieces, typically presented in two or more acts. Lending atmosphere and unpredictable shape to sometimes dissonant always horrified death metal furor that first LP had served the perfect point of arrival for their abstraction beyond pure death metal formality. While the shape of this single piece, “Zoetrope (Psychospiritual Sparagmos)”, is a roughly ~27 minute experience it shouldn’t necessarily be taken in as a leftover, a free-radical third, or a lesser halving of prior ambitions. Though ‘Zoetrope‘ is just a few hairs too short for a longplayer the ambition of its “symphonic” approach to death metal lands as a reasonably complete idea beyond that of its predecessor, a finely orchestrated and mountainous work which overwhelms and overtakes the senses as it burns.

Though symphonic and/or orchestral are either incomplete or unfitting descriptors for the style which Qrixkuor regale us with this time around they’ll more or less communicate the blizzard-set march out of the underworld which greets us as the first act of “Zoetrope (Psychospiritual Sparagmos)” begins in glorious, horror wailing chorale and Mordor-worthy charge. Unfortunately a lot of the references I have for horror soundtracks and such will have me mentioning shit like Playstation 2-era Castlevania games for precedence to start but the point should be well-enough made that a dire, ‘epic’ tone of supernatural gothic dramatism kicks off the piece in a way which is set far from the typical “symphonic death metal” neoclassicism or laser-whipping post-‘The Key‘ underground would-be sects of the 90’s and a bit more akin to the theatric pastiche and illusory grandeur of abstract black metal. It takes roughly eight minutes of riffing, roaring and tumult to finally crest and re-center the piece with glowing atmospheric synth and this’d end up being a vital point of respite for me early on as the song finally begins to build notable tension and purpose via readable progressions beyond the din and extravagant fanfare which opens the album (and reprises ~10:53 minutes in).

The first portion of the mLP cycles through at around twelve minutes in, creeping in passage with richly layered emulated orchestration which is pensive yet full of wonderment in its forward movement. That’d be the most thrilling and repeatable aspect of this mLP to start, this sense that the piano, cello, and such applied here generate narrative tone (and to some degree motif) beyond typical atmospheric guidance as Qrixkuor press on. Cosmically charged synths, frantically shredded leads, all of this arrives in building waves of chaotic reveal as the second half of the album continues to build to a peak entropic statement which I’d say arrives nearby ~22 minutes into the song and lumbers on for another four or so minutes before building up the loop back to the start. The experience is murky, difficult to latch onto beyond a general two act shapeliness to start but the song itself ultimately proves itself a complete, tumultuous and harrowing thought.

While the guitar work on ‘Zoetrope‘ doesn’t necessarily catch my ear as much as their 2021 full-length had the “symphonic” elements used to voice and layer the listening experience do work as the main point of activity and invocation upon repeated listens. This is helped along by the slightly more clear render from Priory Recording Studios who’ve tweaked the overall mix to allow some parity between the loads of guitar tracks buzzing about and the synth/orchestrations otherwise while still allowing some expansive space to resonate. It’ll feel no less cacophonic than ‘Poison Palinopsia‘ but all the more grand and imposing due to the fine integration of keyboards. The inclusion of evocative cover art from Santiago Caruso is both well-representative of the experience and a generally unforgettable image which’d helped draw the mind back to the full listen several times, musing over the packaging to some small extent while considering the elaborate treatment of the prior release.

Stoic in mind yet maniac in motion this latest mLP from Qrixkuor manages to stand out for its bold integration of entirely new sounds while presenting a recognizable controlled chaos beneath the narrative bombast of it all. It is easily one of the more provocative, elusive bursts of fire from the underworld this year and an experience which I can heartily recommend. A very high recommendation.

Very high recommendation. (90/100)

Rating: 9 out of 10.
LABEL(S):Invictus Productions,
Dark Descent Records
RELEASE DATE:December 2nd, 2022


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