Xenobiotic - Mordrake
Unique Leader Records
Technical Deathcore
11 songs (46:19)
Release year: 2020
Bandcamp, Unique Leader Records
Reviewed by Goat

Deathcore! Always a fun world to dip into even if the results aren't always as good as purer death metal (or even hardcore!) but there are occasionally bands that manage to impress. Enter Australian five-piece Xenobiotic, active since 2011 and here showing promise even just on a second full-length, chiefly thanks to the denseness and impact of their sound. Sure, it features those nasty breakdowns and is very much driven by the modern deathcore style that uses subtle backing atmospheric melodies atop plenty of choppy riffing and grunted vocals, but the use of both is broad enough to allow for plenty of experimentation from the band (such as Light That Burns the Sky's dips into blackened speed) and make the songs here distinct from each other. And there's a great deal of tech-death influence in the band's DNA, which makes Nish Raghavan and Cam Moore's guitars more than just scenery, as the downtuned riffage that runs through the likes of Acedia shows, building surprisingly vast amounts of tension at the end.

The only way Mordrake lets itself down is in the concept album strapping, which is mostly notably from the veering-on-mawkish lyrics and skippable interludes like Dysphoria and Thalamus (although the latter's drum performance is worth hearing at least once) and the sense that there's a story not being told particularly well here. Yet if you allow the band to indulge themselves the results are usually impressive, such as Saphris which builds up with piano before erupting into a metal stomper that's equal parts Cult of Luna-esque post-metal and melodic death volcano. There's even some rare guitar soloing (something that these talented musicians should really use more often) and an even rarer perfectly placed guest clean vocalist! And when the band let their instrumental skills lose and create tight little tech-death blasts (the intro to the intelligently groovy Fractured, say, or the crushing Inverted) the results are terrific, threatening the likes of Soilwork in terms of aggression and heaviness as well as in sheer metallic terms - the galloping workout of Grieving the Loss of Self one of several examples.

The icing on the cake is the closing two-part title track, showcasing more of the band's proggy influences without losing the moshpit's attention; Reverie almost Opethlike in its light/heavy contrasts, the longer Acquiesce attacking aggressively, somewhere between Gojira and Aborted. It's in the band's favour that they are more than decent songwriters, breakdowns fewer in number than you'd expect and never uncomfortably shoehorned in. This isn't as plain dumb as deathcore often is, in other words, bearing up to multiple listens and proving itself plenty of fun thanks to the members' clear love of death metal as a whole. Longer-term 'corephobes may take a little convincing, but Mordrake shows Xenobiotic's talents off very well indeed.

Killing Songs :
Light That Burns the Sky, Saphris, Fractured, Mordrake
Goat quoted 80 / 100
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