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Xalpen – Sawken Xo’on (Reissue)

Sawken Xo’on (Reissue)
by Alex Barnard at 06 September 2021, 11:51 PM

XALPEN is a Black Metal band from Santiago, Chile. “Sawken Xo’on” is the group’s debut full-length album, released by Morbid Skull Records last year, yet was reissued by Black Lodge Records recently.

Formed in 2014 and having released two EPs, one demo, and three singles, XALPEN combine the raw and evil sounds of Norwegian Black Metal titans such as MAYHEM, DARKTHRONE, and SATYRICON with lyrics that are an extension of the type of worship of pre-Christian society and ancient cultures that is so pervasive in Norwegian Black Metal. Whereas Norwegian bands obsess over pagan rituals, Vikings and, in some unfortunate cases, white supremacy, XALPEN uses lyrical imagery influenced by the genocide of the Selk’nam people, an indigenous tribe from the region between Argentina and Chile and one of the last native groups in South America to face the destruction of European colonization in the 19th century. In this way, XALPEN put a very unique spin on the sometimes Eurocentric symbolism of Black Metal.

The group’s musicianship is nothing to sneeze at either. Keykrók and K’awx tap into the tremolo-picked guitar lines that defined the style of guitarists such as Euronymous and Ihsahn, and their respective vocal talents combined with those of Herrnash and Tarem Keláash sounds like the musical equivalent of opening up the gates of hell. Kenenek plays the drums with speed, intensity and fire, and, last but not least, Tarem Keláash’s bass playing is so mighty on this album that it's no wonder he was tapped to become the new bassist for Swedish legends WATAIN.

The album opens with the song “Devourer of Light,” a dark and brooding number that never lets up in its atmospheric intensity. Immediately following is the song “1340,” another speedy composition that utilizes Trademark-Black-Metal-slow-building-harmonies and is the first track on the album to make explicit reference to the Selk’nam. The howling at the beginning of the track is another inspired choice, as it feels like I’m literally being sucked into the abyss of despair.

Other highlights from this album include “Han K’win Saik” which incorporates bits of the Selk’nam language and allows the group to showcase some IRON MAIDEN influences in their choice of harmonies; “Tres Chamanes,” an all-Spanish number that signifies the importance of the solar eclipse in native South American culture and includes the band’s most Death Metal-tinged riffs; and “The Formidable Fumes of Hell Fire,” which shows the band eschewing blast beats in favor of a slower-yet-still-evil groove.

Overall, this is a very good Black Metal album. The new lyrical take is very interesting, and I’m excited to see what the band does in the future. However, I will say that that’s really the only truly unique aspect of this album. Otherwise, it’s just a Black Metal album – nothing more, but certainly nothing less than damn good.

Musicianship: 7
Memorability: 5
Production: 6
Songwriting: 7


3 Star Rating

1. Devourer of Light
2. 1340
3. Dark Nights of Winter
4. Han K´win Saik
5. Among the Pillars of Death
6. Tres Chamanes
7. The Formidable Fumes of Hell Fire
Tarem Keláash – Bass, vocals
Keykrók – Guitars, vocals
Herrnash – Additional vocals
Kenenek – Drums
K’awx – Guitars, vocals
Record Label: Black Lodge Records


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