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Xantam - Altered State Award winner

Altered State
by James Brizuela at 06 February 2020, 6:26 PM

XANTAM is a solo death metal project from San Diego, California. Originally XANTAM released a demo in 2015 titled, “LifeDeathBeyond”. That demo has since been reissued by Blood Harvest Records. The same label who is now introducing us to the debut EP, “Altered State”. To say that I was completely blindsided by the sound of XANTAM, would be a gross understatement. The sonic theme of “Altered State” is a mixture of electro, atmospheric, brutal death metal, and with hints of black metal and industrial metal. To say all this would possibly indicate that XANTAM is all over the place musically, but that is not the case. “Altered State” is a journey into the depths of the mind that is unrelenting in its beauty and brutality. I found myself replaying the EP repeatedly, just to hear the nuances of every track. I can say for sure that I have heard atmospheric black metal before, but never usage of such atmospheric sounds in death metal.

The opening track, “Starlight Oblivion”, offers a quick instrumental introduction in that journey that the mind is about to be taken on. A beautiful piano melody cascades into the ears with backing classical musical elements. What happens next is an onslaught of brutal blackened death metal. Far removed from the sounds of the first track, but perfectly placed, nonetheless. That sound graciously provided by the second track, “Pseudogods”. The fast guitar riffing and blistering drumming make you forget that you had just heard a beautiful opening track right before. The gutter growls and harrowing blackened vocal style cut like a knife before the sound takes a turn into an almost Gregorian-like chant. The track has a very prototypical death metal sound, but hints of that underlying black metal influence.

Perfectly balanced in its attempt to jar you from the start. The sound takes a turn back to the beautiful electro based atmospheric quality in the next track, which is the title track, “Altered State”. There is a pure wonderment that comes from the deeply profound sounds of the synthesizer. That sound comes back full circle to the brutality that XANTAM offers. This time there is a deeper black metal sound conveyed in the tempo and cadence of the instrumentation. The gutter growls are more prevalent, but there is a deeper black metal harrowing vocal style that ends the track. The fourth and final track, “Devolution”, brings in a more dread-like synth melody.

It has an almost epic 80's movie feel to it, like something straight out of “The Terminator”. There is nothing more than a beautifully constructed melody of synthesizer sounds cascading over the occasional striking of cymbals. A beautiful way to end a very concise and well thought out experimental death metal sound. I am more than impressed by XANTAM’s ability to throw such an experimental sound of electro and blackened death metal, and have it work so well. By all accounts the idea of all these elements blending together shouldn’t work, but it does on every level. I found myself appreciating the beauty and brutality that surrounds this four track EP. I could say that my only gripe would be that “Altered State” is too short. Enjoy this one folks, it’s captivating.

Songwriting: 9
Musicianship: 8
Memorability: 9
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

1. Starlight Oblivion
2. Pseudogods
3. Altered State
4. Devolution
Xantam the Beholder – All instrumentals
Record Label: Blood Harvest Records


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Edited 16 July 2020

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