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Review for 'IXXI - Assorted Armament'
"Earth man, what a shit hole." These are the words of wisdom spoken by Ron Perlman in the motion picture Alien IV, captured and exploited perfectly in sample form by Swedish Black Metal band IXXI as the introduction to their second album, Assorted Armament, released in 2007.
While IXXI are a relatively new band, being formed in 2006 in Stockholm, Sweden, the band's members are certainly no newcomers to the world of Black Metal, consisting of experienced musicians from such highly regarded Swedish Black Metal acts as Ondskapt, Zavorash and Lifelover.
Prior to releasing this album, IXXI had only released their self-titled debut album, which will unfortunately forever remain in the shadow of the masterpiece that is Assorted Armament. In all honesty, no matter how talented each musician may be, IXXI are really going to have to out-do themselves if they are to ever release another album that will be able to stand out on it's own merits and not remain eclipsed by Assorted Armament.
Their third album, released in 2009 and titled Elect Darkness, while being an excellent album by itself, suffers from this affliction, as it doesn't really reach the greatness of Assorted Armament when both are compared side by side. That's just how good this album really is.
Once the intro is over, from the opening moments of the first song "Armageddon Nobility", two thoughts spring to mind in rapid succession. The first being "Wow, this sounds promising", and the second being "Holy shit, this is excellent". IXXI somehow pull off traditional Black Metal with a fairly modern approach to all elements involved. Firstly, the guitars and bass sound fantastic, and benefit from the album's clean production values and have a decent balance of distorsion for the lower notes and fine-tuning for the higher tremolo-picked riffs, and in many parts of the album there are multiple layers of guitars used to great effect.
Unusual for Black Metal, the bass has a heavy presence in the mix and gives the whole album that added sense of depth. The drums are equally impressive, and in some cases the drums actually stick in your mind with just as much presence as the guitars, as is the case with the track "That We May Kill the Mocking World".
Finally, vocalist Totalscorn from Zavorash fame really gives Assorted Armament it's finishing touch with a stunning vocal performance on every song, including the narration on the two slower tracks "In The Name Of Nothing" and "Imperial Requiem", both songs appearing almost as instrumental interludes in comparison to the rest of the album.
At heart, it must be stated that what really makes this album one of the best Black Metal albums ever are the riffs themselves, but adjectives do them little justice, so I'll refrain from going on a thesaurus-fueled paragraph to describe them and let you find out for yourself.
The band's name itself is supposedly a reference to the events that took place on September 11th, 2001, and as can be expected, from song to song Assorted Armament carries with it an apocalyptic theme of impending war and chaos, helped not only by the lyrics but also by the brief but interesting song introductions that are plagued with what seem like the sounds of some modern city being laid to waste by IXXI themselves.
By the time you reach the album's end, you can't help but feel that the Third World War is just around the corner and that the fall of modern civilization as we know it is practically inevitable. Yes, the album carries a somewhat pessimistic point of view, but you have to admit that IXXI express their reasoning in a rather convincing manner, drawing the occasional comparison to the fall of the Roman Empire.
So there you have it. While IXXI's other albums may be of slightly inferior quality, they more than make up for it with Assorted Armament, one of the most impressive, original and belligerent Black Metal albums to ever see the light of day. Every track is packed full of cunning and catchy riffs that will remain with you long after the album has finished.
What other albums sound similar to this?
Regardless of how superior I have made Assorted Armament appear to be in comparison to other IXXI works, by all means, check out IXXI's other two albums, as they are very decent by themselves, their first album being the self-titled IXXI also released in 2007, and their third album titled Elect Darkness was released in 2009. Both of these albums feature some of the key elements that made Assorted Armament so great, such as the awesome guitars and an impressive vocal performance by Totalscorn, and both have some brilliant songs. If you are unsure which to go for, I strongly recommend Elect Darkness. Hell, you might even like it more than Assorted Armament!
The only other band that can really be considered "similar" to IXXI is of course Zavorash, previously home to IXXI vocalist Totalscorn, with their Nihilistic Ascension & Spiritual Death album being a fantastic listen, featuring not only an identical vocal approach but also bearing many similarities in the guitarwork and drumming.
Other albums that are worth mentioning in this section, just for the sake of it, would be Satyricon's Volcano, Temple Of Baal's Traitors To Mankind, and Vorkreist's Sublimation XXIXA, although the similarities to anything IXXI have achieved with Assorted Armament are far and few between.
In a nutshell...
Assorted Armament is an excellent piece of Black Metal with a twist, enhanced with a clean production and featuring lots of modern elements that all blend together smoothly, creating a previously unthinkable breed of Black Metal that is both sinister, accessible, and thought-provoking. Most importantly, the riffs themselves are just sublime.
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