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Xenos - Filthgrinder Award winner

by Will Travers at 17 February 2020, 4:42 AM

Sicily is well known for many things, it is home to Mt. Etna, the highest active volcano in Europe. It is its self the largest Mediterranean island that is steeped in rich cultural and culinary history. However it is also home to XENOS a three-piece Classic Thrash band that, although a young group are starting to make waves on the scene.

Born as the intellectual child of bass and vocalist Ignazio Nicastro at the end of 2018 they have spent time honing their abilities and growing as a group. With their debut album “Filthgrinder” we are treated to ‘No compromises, no fashions, no bullshit. Just Thrash Metal at all’. With a couple of high profile featured artists on the track list I am sure that this will just be an absolute treat.

As always we will examine the artwork first. With a mirrored image of a dental x-ray emblazoned with the band name and again mirrored title, its nothing particularly special, however the image is somewhat memorable and, for the genre, I find it to be somewhat refreshing that it doesn’t perpetuate to the stereotypical imagery.

With the opening track “Soldados” we are treated to almost three minutes of classical acoustic guitar runs. This strikes me as very reminiscent of ANNHILATOR’s “Crystal Anne”. It is an incredibly relaxing and inviting opening that welcomes you into the album and just goes to set the standard for Giuseppe’s skills on the guitar.

With the album’s namesake we are treated to a very classic thrash anthem. Pounding beats, heavy and relentless riffs and aggressive vocals. It is again true to their inspirations from the old and bold Thrash bands. We also are again witness to some guitar mastery with Giuseppe just running the show with some impressive runs and a killer solo.

The first of the tracks with featured artists “Birth of a Tyrant” opens in a slightly less conventional manner. In fact, you could almost be forgiven for mistaking it for a PANTERA opening. However, during the main body we are again treated to the very purest form of Thrash, the playing style that many of us grew up listening to a loving. Then the students allow the master to show off. Jeff Dunn is allowed to have his fun with the guitar solo and it is divine, it is a clever play and one that has paid of immensely.

Now, I was hopeful that “Angel of Silence” would stray more towards a SLAYEResque sound. I wasn’t disappointed, in fact, I was actually delighted to hear a sample of Samuel L Jackson’s infamous bible speech from “Pulp Fiction” in the opening to the track. Whilst the rest of the track definitely sounds heavily influenced by SLAYER, XENOS are quite clearly ensuring that they put their mark on each and every track so that it is clear that they are their own band.

XENOS have made it clear that they are influenced by the Classic Thrash bands, so who better to cover than one of the heavyweights… MEGADETH “Peace Sells” some would think that covering such a well known band’s songs is ambitious… However I have every faith that they will pull this off and then some. Personally I like the covering artist to tip their hat to the original, but where is the fun in covering if not to put your own twist on it. Some great covers, in my opinion, are ones that take a song that didn’t need changing and do it anyway, see Disturbed “Sound of Silence”, DEVILDRIVER “Sail” or MACHINE HEAD “MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE”. Whilst this version is very similar to the original XENOS have created a heavier and more aggressive version. With Ignazio’s more gruff vocals in comparison to Dave Mustain the entire ensemble is more heavily distorted and aggressive throughout. I think that they have done an amazing job at covering this classic.

The second track to have a featured artist is “Of Magma and War” with Si Cobb adding his vocal talents to the track. With a slower and more deliberate opening before launching into a final assault on the listeners ears and XENOS utilise everything that they demonstrated throughout their album, along with the addition of Si to create a final lasting memory of their successful debut.

Overall, this has to be one of the best debut albums I have heard. XENOS know what they want to produce and project into the world and they are successfully achieving their aims. It was a brutal, relentless, aggressive album, but, most importantly it was fun. I mean it was especially fun watching my cat leap into the air and run out of the room as I blasted “Filthgrinder” but I thoroughly, wholeheartedly enjoyed this album and I implore all Thrash officionados to give it a try.

If this is what XENOS present initially, then I simply cannot wait to watch this group grow and develop their sound further. I am sure that they have a long and successful future ahead of them.

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

5 Star Rating

1. Soldados
2. Filthgrinder
3. Post Apocalypse Breed
4. Birth of a Tyrant (Feat. Jeff Dunn)
5. So Old, So Cold
6. Iconoclast
7. Angel of Silence
8. Peace Sells (Megadeth Cover)
9. Of Magma and War (Feat. Si Cobb)
Ignazio Nicastro – Bass and Vocals
Danilo Ficicchia – Drums
Giuseppe Taormina – Guitar
Record Label: Club Inferno Entertainment


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Edited 26 July 2021

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