Album Review: Xorsist - At the Somber Steps to Serenity
Reviewed by Sam Jones
It’s been a while since I listened to a work of full fledged Swedish death metal in the veins of those that made this country such a premier hotspot for extreme metal. Xorsist, formed in 2020 and hailing from the city of Stockholm, are as death metal as they come within Sweden and while they released a Single in 2021, their first major album, Deadly Possession, released last year. Now, just another year later, Xorsist rear their Swedish heads once more with their second full length album, At The Somber Steps To Serenity, just eighteen months after their first has released. I haven’t listened to many three-piece bands in a while so I’ll be curious to see how their sound comes across through this album. Let’s take a look at Xorsist and their offering of Swedish Death Metal, due for an October 6th release date.
Considering this is a work Swedish death metal, it makes things all the more curious when Xorsist open up their sophomore studio album with a piano piece that’s reminiscent of Bach or Beethoven; if anything it goes to show the similarities inherent between metal and classical. It also makes for a calm and easing opening for the band to then burst out of when the first real song of the record plays; some may deem it typical of an extreme metal work to introduce an album with classical but it’s a trope I personally love. The main form of songwriting the band however utilise is wondrously Swedish in style; a guitar tones that’s deliciously evil and shredded yet still retains enough of a body that it doesn’t feel paper thin. Many will raise the Dismember influence however the same could be said for an utter pantheon of Swedish death metal acts. What aids Xorsist herein is their riffs and guitar presence feels to have an actual foundation to work off of; the songwriting has some before going for it so while these riffs are thrown at us we can feel the strength these riffs have other than the tone itself. The guitar work is still used to showcase the riffs they have for us; the tone isn’t relied on solely as a crutch.
The primary guitar tone may be the most immediate element that will affront audiences yet that shouldn’t fool us into thinking it’s the only reason the band want you invested in their songwriting. It’s nice to acknowledge that the band still went out of their way to demonstrate how this is a true band effort, and no clearer is this made prevalent than in the bass. When I’ve encountered newer works of Swedish extreme metal, the bass hasn’t been all too present in the mix; it’s therefore appealing to note how Xorsist made sure their basslines can be heard not only throughout the full tracks when the rest of the band are playing, but even more profoundly when the rest of the band’s instrumentation is stripped back and laid bare. Not only is it a gloriously thick and strong bass sound, but it also reflects the nature of guitar tone used for the main riffs as well; this record reeks of filth and gore and the bass imbues that sensibility that helps to round the record out.
While the band are death metal, they’re also balancing tempo with intensity. Listening to the band play, it’s evident they’re not completely intoxicated with dreams of speed and nought else to be found; if anything, some of the more prominent and memorable sections of this album are uncovered, and played, when the track in question isn’t moving at breakneck pace. Often, these instances allow the guitar tone to feel more fleshed out, realises and to possess actual reason as to why such a tone was preferable to this record’s songwriting as opposed to it being some mere aesthetic choice. Sweden is renowned for this style of guitar sound but it’s nice to see Xorsist are using it beyond that sheer cool factor. Much like the bass, this tone feels to assume a thicker resonance and grander presence when the band aren’t playing at speed. The songwriting is still just as ruthless and engaging when they are playing fast, but something about this record feels more intimately evil when things slow down.
Considering how the songwriting for this record doesn’t exactly leave much room for us to relax between tracks, the drumming does well to break through the crucible of the soundscape, and still deliver the goods people need to hear from them. It’s a testament to the mixing process that’s enabled the drums to still come through with coherence and as much clarity as they inherently do; the slightest taps of the cymbals aren’t merely picked up on, but they’re brought across the infernal distances that are otherwise covered by the ripping tones and basslines that bloat the already sizeable production. Aiding the band here, is their insistence on giving the drums a less linear style of playing whereby there’s always some change in their patterns coming through which in turn showcases their unpredictability. Swedish death metal is often categorised easily unfairly as a checklist of elements so it’s refreshing to see something that won’t align itself to what fans might want out of this record.
In conclusion, Xorsist’s sophomore album release is a fierce, ripping affair that sees us engaged from start to finish whilst we see the world around us torn to shreds. It’s been a hot minute since I heard a record use something akin to the buzzsaw tone, but Xorsist apply it well since they’ve clearly ensured it isn’t battering our senses at all times; they remember there are numerous other aspects to their sound that fans will want to keep an eye out for and the band provide that in force. It’s a raspier and more shredding performance than what I’ve heard lately and it makes for a nice change to hear something a little more destructive and uncompromising. Their first album under their contract with Prosthetic Records, I’m hoping Xorsist only continue their time with them as I’m very happy with what they’ve done here. A great record that’s worth your time.