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Xeno - Sojourn Award winner

by Dave "That Metal Guy" Campbell at 30 October 2020, 3:29 AM

XENO is a Dutch Progressive Metal band with influences from PERIPHERY, TESSERACT, OPETH, PLINI, PORCUPINE TREE, and LAMB OF GOD. From their Facebook page, “XENO is a collective being. The bringing in existence of a way of thinking, a heritage. Something new, something out of the blue. Freedom and pride reigns in making music that feels just right. Something you have not seen or heard before. In the origin of metal, XENO is growing towards their own stubborn direction. The incorporation of a keys-section helps realizing a more theatrical presentation, supported by the character and waywardness of the other band members. “Sojourn” is the band’s second release, and contains eleven new tracks.

“Revery” leads off the album. It’s a short, one-and-a-half-minute mood setting instrumental. Charming piano notes spring forth, along with some background ambiance, seguing into “In Stasis,” which opens with what sounds like saxophone notes. The vocals and music are ethereal, until the guitar takes over. A heavy riff mixes in with piano, and they dance together in a samba of beauty and power. It waxes and wanes, at times with pretty piano tones and dreamy clean vocals, and other times with a heavy riff and harsh vocals. “Dusk” opens with a Djenty guitar riff and some aggressive tones. Keys provide some relief. Harsh vocals lead the charge here, along with some pig squeals in the guitars. The clean vocals in the background along with the keys creates a rich sound, and use of piano in the middle part of the song lets you know that the band is both creative and able to maximize on their songwriting and instrumental prowess.

“Epiphany” opens with a slow, heavy sound, and some effective use of different guitar techniques. Vocals are clean at first, but then turn harsh. The overall mood here is very melancholy, and again I love the use of piano to give them more than just guitars to carry out their vision. “Exile” begins with a heavy and fast guitar riff, and harsh vocals. The sound is somewhat chaotic, but the meter shifts let you know you are listening to Progressive Metal. The band is super-tight when it comes to keeping things in order. “Nomad” opens with expressive keys that quickly give way to harsh vocals and aggressive drumming. The heavy, weighted sound continues throughout the song.

“Memories” is a short two-minutes of some peace and calm. “Closure” opens with keyboards and bass guitar notes. Clean vocals and guitars move the track forward at first. The sound opens up with some really nice guitar work. Harsh vocals appear near the end of the song as does a well-executed guitar solo. “Resurge” opens with the steady chugging of drums working overtime. It then drops back, to clean harmonic vocals and light, airy guitar work. The transitions in and out of the harsh and clean passages work so well, and the melodies are very catchy here. “Uncaged” begins with some power and devastation in the main riff. Those Progressive elements are more out in the open here. Harsh vocals carry the weight of the song. This song is very dark, and you can feel the burden carried here.

“Sojourn” closes the album, and it’s an opus…clocking in at over thirteen-minutes. It opens softly, with smooth keys and guitars. Heavy guitars come into the fold, and the vocals carry an odd cadence at first…sterile and cold. Bass guitar thumps over a bed of keys, and when all parts come together with the harsh vocals, all is obliterated. Suddenly it transitions to a warm passage of clean guitars. Around the half-way mark, there are some really dreamy melodies created from the keyboards. This song goes in very surprising but pleasing directions, and ends on a flurry of accomplished musicianship.

Overall, what perhaps impressed me most was the use of two different styles of both vocals and guitars, and what the keyboards brought to the table. The transitions in and out of the various styles was also impressive. This Dutch sextet are very talented musicians that created a wide variety of sounds on “Sojourn.” Sometimes soft and charming, other times harsh and aggressive, but always with a commanding presence of their instruments. If you are looking for something fresh in the genre of Progressive Metal, give XENO your time, because you will not be disappointed!

Songwriting: 9
Musicianship: 10
Memorability: 9
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

1. Revery
2. In Stasis
3. Dusk
4. Epiphany
5. Exile
6. Nomad
7. Memories
8. Closure
9. Resurge
10. Uncaged
11. Sojourn
Ruben Willemsen – Vocals, Bass
Edwin Haan – Vocals, Guitars
Daniel de Coninck – Guitars, Vocals
Jasper Bruggeman – Guitars
Sean Lubbersen – Keys
Richard van Leeuwen – Drums
Record Label: Art Gates Records


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Edited 29 January 2023

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