Kentucky-bred hardcore act XERXES find themselves in respectable company, recently chewing up venues on a North American tour with contemporaries Pianos Become the Teeth, and while Pianos soon hit the road again with the legendary Converge, XERXES set out on their debut LP, Our Home Is a Deathbed, to prove they bleed punk just the same.
Overall, the Louisville group’s ideas mostly work, and the album’s strengths grow with repeated listens. Upbeat, driving passages and dynamics are merged with aggressive contemplation in crafty ways, and when the band isn’t belting out threatening harmonics and minor-key punk, they’re wrapping themselves in tight blankets of warm tones and lingering progressions; this is found most remarkably on the gorgeously smothering pair of “Suburban Asphalt” and “Fever Dream”, two of the most deceptively fragile tracks on the record. Things get terribly inviting for an abrasive hardcore band, reminiscent even of the heaviest dirges of UK emo-rockers Crash of Rhinos.
However, the band themselves cite very prominent, hefty influences, and you could easily trace the importance they place in fast rhythms and tense grooves over guitar antics on tracks like “February” and “Our City Is a Floodpain” back to revered hardcore act Saetia if you tried. XERXES’ penchant for thrash is evident on “Sleepwalking With You” and “Tide”, relentless punk mini-journeys containing their own trails and narratives, spitting you out in cold places that look nothing like where you entered.
The clean guitar interludes and reveries provide a meditative environment within the storm XERXES create, and the album ruminates inward like Touché Amoré’s burst of a release last year, albeit with added breathing space. Slight brutal nuances seem to be lost on this release, if only barely (notably the rounder bass tones from their 7” Twins), but XERXES’ evolution into a band hinting at a more controlled, emotive chaos makes perfect sense when taking up ears to their recent gloomy split with Midnight Souls. Only time will tell if their vocal direction and songwriting will follow in the same footsteps as their inventive instrumentation.
Essential Tracks: “Suburban Asphalt”, “Sleepwalking With You”, and “Tide”