Friday, August 10, 2012

A Million Dead Birds Laughing - Xen

Fusion genres have always been an exciting, yet hesitant thing for me. For one the thought of fusing two or more genres brings on plenty of opportunities and have crafted some fantastic albums such as Meshuggah’s workings with Jazz elements, or Vildhjarta’s perfect combination of ambient music and extreme death metal, but as with most anything, there’s plenty of opportunity to make something that just doesn’t blend well together or is outright just bad. Thankfully that is not the case with A Million Dead Birds Laughing, and while I’m still trying to figure out if I like their name or not, I definitely enjoy their music.

A Million Dead Birds Laughing play a fusion of technical death metal and grindcore, which isn’t something I’ve heard much of at all, and too be honest I’m not a huge fan of grindcore, but I absolutely love tech death. Thankfully once again this band seems to be more reliant on the tech death aspects of their music, using the weirder and experimental aspects of grindcore and the length of each track is more in line with grindcore songs.

The first thing you’ll likely notice and one of the most standout points for this band is the vocals, provided by AZ. (The band identifies each member by initials, AZ on vocals, BB on guitar (which I’m assuming is his initials, but kind of hoping is simultaneously a reference to BB King) DT on drums and SA on bass guitar.) AZ’s vocals are quite all over the place in the best way possible. He’s not willing to settle on straight screaming either, he goes between screams and a monk like chanting all throughout the album, which is a rather refreshing thing to hear because it’s pretty original.

The rest of the band is tight as well, and you can hear this right off the first track and all the way to the end of the album. Nest explodes with a wall of sound and it doesn’t really let up save for a few parts of the album such as the acoustic part of the song ‘Quantum‘ or the short quiet part of the song ‘King’ which doesn’t last long before it gets destroyed by one of the heaviest riffs on the album.

The atmosphere on this album is fantastic as well. I really love the whistling that comes in the beginning and end and throughout a few small portions of the album, and the more dissonant portions of the lead guitar atop the fairly constant chanting clean vocals is very unsettling in a fantastic way. And the short few samples they used were very well executed, my favorite being the short monologue at the end of ‘Ulcer’ with the whistling popping up again underneath the spoken words. Also the sample at the end of the title track is pretty awesome. This is easily one of the best albums I’ve heard this year in terms of atmosphere.

One of the only problems I have with Xen is one of the biggest problems I have with grindcore in general, which is the short length of most every track. Although it’s a fourteen track album it clocks in at less than 30 minutes total running time. Which isn’t really all that terrible, but my favorite songs on this album are ‘Terminal’ ‘King’ and ‘Quantum’ the latter of those are two of the three tracks that are over three minutes and Terminal is a bit over two minutes. So while I really like this album overall I would have loved to see them attempt a few more longer tracks, because the ones they did do are excellent.

In the end though Xen is a definite step forward from the already pretty awesome Force Fed Enlightenment. It takes on more technical death metal aspects than their debut album, which is a solid check in my book, and it continues the bands great ability to write very solid experimental metal.

Xen is not available for streaming on Spotify, but the bands first effort Force Fed Enlightenment is, so feel free to stream it right here and now!

A Million Dead Birds Laughing - Force Fed Enlightenment

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