Review Summary: Are you watching closely?
Take a good, long look at the cover of this album. Drink in the abstract chaos of that pixelated vortex. Read the full title: The Skeleton Is Just a Coat Hanger; These Are the Black Strings That Make You Dance
. Read it again; absorb every word like the curveballs that they are. With the presentation of their album, Oxx are doing more than just piquing your interest. They’re setting the tone, establishing expectations for the experience they’re offering: a labyrinthine, nigh inscrutable experience whose scope far exceeds anything its 27-minute runtime would suggest.
At first, I made the mistake of not taking those expectations seriously. I believed that “Labyrinth (Minotaur Hymn)” and “Screwdriver Hymn,” the album’s first two tracks, were the real tone setters, and those two tracks delivered something largely comprehensible: sludgy metalcore reminiscent of Cult Leader or early Tusk, which occasionally gets a tad too mathy for its own good. An astute listener might notice the subtle flourishes of saxophone, but even they aren’t all that unusual. But the truth is that these two tracks don’t set the tone as much as they set the stage. Like an accomplished magician, Oxx first need to show you something you can understand, so that you can then be amazed at what they do with it.
The third track, “Birthday Song,” is where the true nature of Oxx’s vision begins to blossom forth. The saxophone, no longer simply an embellishment, instead integrates fully and brilliantly with the other instruments, somehow harmonizing with the dissonant violence of the guitars and making them even more otherworldly and unsettling. “Trespassers” pulls up the album’s reins a bit and opens itself up, allowing space for saxophone and clean guitars to lead fascinating explorations. On “A Multiplicity of Endings,” the album rips apart at the seams, dissolving into pure cacophony. Oxx just keep pulling more and more tricks out of their sleeves, and each one is more stunning and enigmatic than the last. Finally, the title track brings all those tricks together, condensing them into a perfect six-minute capstone. Like its title and cover, the album leaves its audience completely mystified as to what they’ve just experienced, yet captivated nonetheless.