Review Summary: Is it original or is it just bizarre?A Million Dead Birds Laughing
are certainly different. Combining elements of death metal, grindcore, and experimental, the four-piece outfit- who hail from Australia- seem to be crafting some sort of concept album series, with this, Xen
, being the second in that sequence. To quote the group's bandcamp page: "A counterpart to their debut album ‘Force Fed Enlightenment’ - 'Xen' stands as Part II of the AMDBL ‘alphabet’" I don't quite know what that means, but when judged on its own terms, Xen
is a frequently bizarre and isolating listen with an, admittedly, unique sound. Though very heavy and very technical for much of its runtime, the album isn't afraid to explore more tame sonic possibilities, utilizing eerie clean guitar and a few ambient washes to good effect.
The problem with Xen
is the vocals. Much of the time a low, uninterested-sounding voice will drone on overtop the fast-paced instrumental work, sounding out of place and irritating. The cleans are cheesy and out of tune at points, and too often a multi-layered chorus will find its way into the music, sounding clumsily retrofitted over the pounding drums and fervently technical guitar riffs. The other issue with the album is that much of it runs together. The beginning of "Yeti" features a wood block and bass section which is undeniably cool, and it transitions into the most memorable song on the album (even featuring a solo from Ne Obliviscaris
guitarist Benjamin Baret). Other than that, however, there is not much to differentiate each song from its counterparts, besides the seemingly random vocal samples included in some.
Though much of the release is bludgeoning heavy from an instrumental perspective, that energy is frequently pushed to the background thanks to the bewildering vocals (which are oftentimes high in the mix). When utilizing a more traditional scream, or not layering his voice twenty-five times over the same track, vocalist AZ is bearable; it is, however, his tendency to stray from that which mars Xen
. A Million Dead Birds Laughing deserve credit for creating something different than the norm- however, not all of it is different in a good way, and recognizing that distinction is important for this, a band with so much potential.