Xhohx - "Karyotypexplosion"
(self-released 2007)

From Aural Innovations #38 (January 2008)

Xhohx are a Belgian duo who play guitar, bass and programmed drums and are influenced by the No Wave and Rock In Opposition bands. And that's a combination that's clearly reflected in the music. The punky elements of the No Wave bands are apparent throughout, though Xhohx is most firmly in avant-progressive rock territory. I could rattle off multiple analogies, though to their credit Xhohx ultimately sound like themselves. Imagine a Doom Metal version of Present (fellow Belgian band), throw in some Magma, Captain Beefheart, Ruins and Etron Fou Leloublan and you might get something like Xhohx.

The music is brutal, insanely busy and chaotic, though the musicians are completely in control. Wildly manic yet tightly composed. The vocals are a combination of Rob Zombie and Guigou Chenevier, if you can imagine that, though Roger Trigaux's addition of vocals on the later Present albums comes to mind as well. The album is relentless, being a non-stop assault of crazed prog-jazz-metal. It's demonic and merciless, yet the compositions and playing are creatively sophisticated and pretty damn mind blowing. I'm completely clueless when it comes to the technology of musical instruments but I must say these programmed drums are impressive. If I didn't know they were programmed I'd never have guessed. And the saxophone that appears on one track was a treat as it gelled nicely with Xhohx's music. Same for the piano that crops up occasionally.

Most of the tracks are in the 2-4 minutes range, making for a series of lightning strike offensives. But just when I thought that brevity was Xhohx's strength, I got to the last track, which is a 15 minute piece that had me riveted white knuckled to my seat. This track reminded me a lot of Present, though enhanced and assassinated by Xhohx's brutality. This is like the musical equivalent of extreme sports and a refreshing take on the many progressive rock submissions I receive. I'll bet these guys KILL in live performance.

For more information you can visit the Xhohx Myspace site at: http://www.myspace.com/xhohx.
Email at: xhohxcontact@aol.com.
Distributed in the US by Wayside Music. Visit their web site at: http://www.waysidemusic.com.

Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz

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