The day I thought would never come is here! 6 years after releasing their debut album “LMNTS”, Russian progressive band RXYZYXR have released their long awaited follow up “II of V”, with quite a few notable changes. For starters, the lineup has been condensed to two core members, Drummer and Bassist Tyoma Mamay and Guitarist Vasja Shjkharev.
Further to that, the bands sound has evolved GREATLY and unlike the previous release, “II of V” doesn’t center itself around Djent although it continues to borrow from it. There are tons of polyrhythms and syncopated passages abound however the incorporation takes on jazz sensibilities. At times it borders on a jam like-expression but never quite escapes the perceived deliberacy of well thought out, written and performed playing.
The album kicks off strongly with “Ode To The Lost Sword”, a Djenty-inspired track that quickly makes it apparent that these guys are talented and are not messing around. Ligado guitar runs, syncopation, polyrhythm, arpeggios, xylophones, all sorts of wacky stuff is going on at all times but there’s never a moment of congestion.
“YInMn” continues the party with a more hard rock-like focus, it’s a little more rhythmically laid back and employs dissonant stabs in the right places to make things pop nicely.
“Refuse to Refract” is just a whole bunch of wow. It takes full advantage of much of the timing arsenal the group possesses and features some sick bass slapping, and a few saxophone solos that are incredibly metal as FUCK.
I might hop off the blow by blow descriptions now as each track has a surprise of its own to reveal and it’d be pretty shitty of me to spoil it for you. Sufficit to say that the guys don’t keep too many of their techniques in reserve and have thrown everything they have at this album. It’s about now that I’ll switch to talking about the production and sound design, which on this is super dynamic. There isn’t a great deal of gain going on anywhere including the input preamps for the instruments. There’s just enough to be aggressive but not so much that the intricacies of the performances are lost to an overuse of distortions. When the instruments are played softly, there’s a cushioning to the sound that is super pleasing, when the guys dig in and play hard, you feel every transient, low end thump and mid-range honk. The production choices to steer clear of over-processing equate to a highly natural sounding recording that is still highly aggressive and expressive.
The bass tone shifts quite a lot, employing raw, overdriven and distorted tones with every note hitting you right in the chest. The main tone employed, an almost raw one, is a difficult one to control unless you have excellent technique. The same goes for drums, this is one of the rare albums i’ve heard recently where there’s little or possibly no triggering going on with the drum kit. Mamay brings the goods in both departments with skill and finesse.
Shjkharev holds up his end of things exceedingly well too. He has a kind of, under-gained crunch tone to his sound where you really have to play hard to get it to sound good and does he deliver! His rhythms, riffing and leadwork is highly intelligent and pares with Mamay’s instrumentation like yin and yang. I can’t find the source where I read this, but I’m also certain that Shjharev performed the synths and piano sections of the album, he knocked it out of the park in that regard as well (assuming my information is correct).
“II of V” surpasses the previous album “LMNTS” in just about every way. In the intervening six years between releases a lot has changed and improved for the better. RXYZYXR remains a passion project which makes me a little sad as the music is incredible and I would love to hear the guys take this project as far as it can possibly go. On the other hand, I didn’t think there would ever be a follow up to “LMNTS” so, I’ll consider it a stroke of luck that we got anything at all, much less an incredible album that demands attention.
Get your copy of II of V HERE