Reviewed By Michael O'Brien
What initially drew me to France's Otargos when I reviewed their fourth full-length album, No God, No Satan, a number of years back was the band's mixture of black metal with light hints of industrial influence. While I’d be lying if I said it was a unique take on the style, the band still showed an impressive deftness for it and they turned out a strong album in the process.
I never got around to checking out the band’s follow-up album, Apex Terror, (or any of the preceding albums for that matter) but I jumped at the chance to cover the band's sixth full-length release, Xeno Kaos, when the promo became available off the back of the positive experience I’d had with No God, No Satan.
With No God, No Satan being my only exposure to the band's catalogue, it's true that I can't (and don’t) claim to have any form of encyclopaedic knowledge of Otargos’ sound from a career-based perspective, but I have to say that my expectations for more industrial-tinged black metal were doused rather quickly on Xeno Kaos. It’s not that there isn’t the odd flourish of it here and there, but the dominant sound on Xeno Kaos is blackened death metal of a very Behemoth-flavoured variety. This isn’t the worst thing in the world, of course, but it’s not exactly the most original sound going around these days either, which is the only real complaint I have with Xeno Kaos as it is otherwise an enjoyable affair.
If the striking similarities to modern Behemoth are the first thing you notice on Xeno Kaos, I’d wager that the second thing will be the album’s beefy production. There’s no two ways about it - Xeno Kaos sounds utterly massive, with the vocals of Dagoth and the drums of John A. being the lucky recipients of some special attention, elevating them to a position of prominence that ever so slightly sees them override the guitars but not overbearingly or obnoxiously.
Over the past month or so, my feelings towards Xeno Kaos have swung like a pendulum, changing almost every time I’ve listened to it. I have to say that when I first listened to it, I wasn’t exactly enamoured with what I heard, but as time has gone on I’ve tended to teeter somewhere between a casual indifference at the lower end of the spectrum and a measured appreciation at the upper end, which is roughly where my feelings about the album have finally settled.
The thing is, when you strip away the sheer intensity with which it is played, the material on offer here is generally rather good but also isn’t really anything you haven’t heard before, which is a shame if for no other reason than the obvious passion that’s gone into its construction. But while Xeno Kaos may not offer much in the way of true originality, what it does offer up is a number of really memorable riffs spread out across its eight tracks which are more than enough to hold your interest and to elevate the album above average.
Despite the caveats I’ve found myself offering with respect to Xeno Kaos in this review, the truth is that you really could do a lot worse for your money, and even though you aren’t going to be hearing anything that pushes any boundaries here, that doesn’t for a second mean that there isn’t a lot of fun to be had either. In fact, if there’s one adjective that I think best describes the experience of listening to Xeno Kaos, “fun” would seem to be the most obvious choice to me.
More from Otargos
- No God, No Satan [review]