When the Elder Gods finally turn their dread gaze on this flake of cosmic dandruff, Xoth will be there to pass out beers. “Party Lovecraft” is a tricky vibe to nail and also possibly an oxymoron, but this Seattle tech/thrash/black/melodeath/whatever act makes it their own. Over the course of two excellent albums, Invasion of the Tentacube and Interdimensional Invocations, Xoth filled a void that only Xoth knew was there. What do they sound like? Toss the tech-thrash virtuosity of Vektor into a blender with the fury of Absu and the genre-hopping exuberance of Serpents Unleashed-era Skeletonwitch, then drain the resulting slurry through a sci-fi b-movie filter and bake it all in H.P. Lovecraft’s oven. That allllllmost captures the infectious spirit of Xoth’s music. Few who listen can resist their charms, and now the band drops third long-player Exogalactic. The cover art is more than a bit similar to The Black Dahlia Murder’s seminal Noctunal. Does the homage portend a new direction for the foursome, and can Xoth keep their winning streak alive?
The Xoth of Exogalactic is the same outfit that won legions of converts. Killer second track “Manuscripts of Madness” does lean hard into a Black Dahlia influence, but the overall sound and vibe here will feel familiar. The dueling guitars of Tyler Splurgis and Woody Adler drive the songs, ingesting influences like Pac-Man does dots and weaving everything into a fluid argument for a Unified Theory of Metal. Their lead lines kick into melodic overdrive during the choruses, when it often feels like the guitars are trying to sing along with the vocals. The probing bass dabs splotches of low end in interesting places. If you know Xoth, there are no surprises here—but if you know Xoth, you’re probably hungry for more Xoth. That’s exactly what Exogalactic gives you: eight new tracks of the quartet’s now-signature sound, sprinkled onto your synapses over a brisk and exhilarating thirty-nine minutes. Xoth’s latest offers tight songwriting enhanced by accessible instrumental wizardry; Exogalactic, like its predecessors, is a journey most metal fans will be eager to take.
Across two albums and one EP, Xoth has never released a bad song. That streak continues on Exogalactic. “Reptilian Bloodsport” kicks the album off with a riff that sounds like an emergency signal from a deep space beacon. The song itself manages to be heavy and sugary sweet all at once—it’s a banger, as are the seven tracks that follow. “Manuscripts of Madness” would be at home next to Nocturnal’s “What a Horrible Night to Have a Curse” on a playlist. Later, “Saga of the Blade” dabbles in fantasy iconography a la Exmortus or High Command. There’s not much variety from song to song, and Xoth’s trademark lead guitar tone drenches everything from stem to stern. That threatens to fatigue your ears, but fortunately the band has the good sense to keep the runtime short. When anthemic closer “Map to the Stars, Monument to the Ancients” riffs its last, you’re left wanting more—a dilemma best solved by hitting “play” on another run through Exogalactic.
Even though it’s a brand-new album, Exogalactic has already accumulated baggage. The initial promo was a disappointment. The strength of the songs shone through in many spots, but everything felt wan and slight. Xoth noticed, too, and the band took the unprecedented step of sending a remastered version of the album to us a week before its release. The new take by Jason Williams at Riffsthatrule is an immense improvement, supercharging the material and allowing Exogalactic to shine. Kudos to the band for diagnosing the problem and scrambling to turn a weakness into a strength.
In my short time with Exogalactic, the album conjured a few different scores. There’s the glum 3.0 that I would have assigned the original master. I toyed with a 3.5, meant here to denote good work that fails to expand the band’s horizons. In the end, though, Xoth finds their level. They don’t deserve to be dinged for consistency. It took a last-minute save for Exogalactic to arrive at greatness, but it got there all the same. Xoth delivers another joyful winner, uniting the metal-verse once again with a vital contribution to their growing legacy.