Review Summary: Psychedelic, face-melting space death
Say what you want, I don’t mind death ‘n’ roll, and sometimes bother to actively seek out bands representing that style. On one such bender, I entered the Encyclopaedia Metallum page of Xysma (one of the death ‘n’ roll trailblazers, a band notorious for being unable to keep the same style between two pieces of output, and covering everything from grind to pop-rock before disbanding) and started perusing the list of bands that supposedly followed them down the death ‘n’ roll trail. Paraxism was on there, misplaced among the more regular path followers, and that’s how I came across this insanely underrated, obscure little gem.
Paraxism’s aural journey throughout their demos (and lone EP) is almost as broad as Xysma’s, echoing the big dog’s restlessness in spirit by starting off as pretty standard, catchy death metal before morphing into a unique musical hybrid with moogs and violins, their final tapes display a more grunge-influenced approach with clean vocals and a well-defined keyboard presence. Selected Works is the crème de la crème of their releases, the very essence of their distinctive mid-period style distilled and purified to perfection.
The riffs are an otherworldly blend of cues taken from different musical areas, with the two predominant constituents being death metal and NWOBHM. That’s not to say that the tape sounds like Cannibal Corpse covering Iron Maiden – the guys just mesh death metal’s driven energy with some of heavy metal’s rhythmic sensibilities, channeling it through an oddly psychedelic, robotic fuzz of a guitar tone. The musical ideas never get old, with the band mixing in different ratios of the components, yet they all sound coherent and right at home. Nothing sticks out as forcefully slapped into a track for the sake of it, this is one of the most varied batches of riffs that manage to sound so uniform.
A total of four songs are featured on the demo, and picking standouts is quite the daunting task. High composition quality is maintained throughout, each song is easily identifiable and memorable (an issue with some tapes), the glue holding it all together being the unique orchestration and lively swagger of the riffing. The arrangements are well thought out, with some of the highlights being the ice-cold, squealing groove snapping “Smooth Hate” in half at the perfect moment, “My Jargon” with its near-boastful intro buildup and the seamless transition from a tremolo workout into an intense, register-contrasting, neck-snapping riff about a minute into “Imitating”. The songs are excellently paced, going into overdrive at just the right moments and being able to crank up the energy level with means other than the clichéd “guitar tremolo and blast beats” combination ridden to death by their theoretical genre comrades.
As stated earlier, the orchestration is pretty original. Apart from the standard metal foundation of drums-bass-guitar, Paraxism enlisted the help of an electric violinist and mini moog player. It’s amazing how well the moog gels with the chosen guitar tone, adding a wonderfully fitting layer of atmosphere to the music and making it take off in yet another way (some of the highlights include the first verse of “Dive” and the aforementioned intro to “My Jargon”). The violin is utilized less sparingly than on the 1993 promo, and the guy gets to show off some nice phrasing.
The musicianship is top notch. Forget out of tune guitars, randomly banged cardboard snares and the like. Everybody has a very good idea of what they’re doing, and puts their talents to good use. The growling is very professional, the newcomer silliness of the first demo is nowhere to be found. The enigmatic instrument tones in the intelligent, blistering solo sections make it hard to discern who’s playing what, but I’m pretty sure that the guitarist and both session musicians get their moments in the limelight. The guitar taking over the baton from the violin (at least that’s what I think is happening) right at the end of “Imitating” is one heck of a terrific buildup that serves as a fitting conclusion to this phenomenal tape.
It’s no surprise that as the aftermath of this fantastic display of confident musicianship of the highest order, Paraxism got to release an EP on an actual label. It’s a huge letdown that it was only an EP, as this phase of their career was truly unique and outstanding, deserving to be documented on a proper full-length album hopefully resulting in more exposure. Alas, it wasn’t to be. Still, Selected Works serves as testimony to a magical moment in time and space. If you can handle growled vocals, do yourself a favor and seek out a good rip of this. You’ve never heard anything like this.