Some bands, for better or worse, fall into easily outlined genre definitions. They take the conventions of an established genre and carry them to their fullest extent, resulting in either an exciting litany or a churn of tiresome bullshit. Then there are bands that sidestep every convention thrown at them by incorporating the instruments, sounds, and atmosphere from other corners of the musical universe. Yet every band that falls into the former category exists only because of bands that exist in the latter category.
Sorxe self-identity as “multi-genre post-metal”, which is a multisyllabic way of saying not much at all really. Certainly the cinematic odyssey implied by the tag post-metal is encapsulated in a song like Smoke Signals, an entirely instrumental track that treads the quiet-beginning-to-epic-finish pathway at the heart of Post-Metal very well. Winding guitars are underscored by a pleasantly prominent and independent bass, careening head first into rapids of fast riffing and hammering drums toward the end of the song’s nine minutes and 13 seconds.
Much of Surrounded By Shadows is defined by the use of changes in song dynamics. Not just the expected slow-to-fast of Smoke Signals but also switches in tempo and speed to reflect an engaged approach to songwriting that recaptures listener interest before a passage outstays its welcome. There are slow chuggy bits and fast chaotic bits that one might come to expect from contemporary sludge as well as vocals that make good use of effects to maintain a menacing presence without spilling over into the other instruments. This is particularly well demonstrated in Creeper Beast, where vocals take centre stage and show the passion if not talent of guitarist Tanner Crace’s voice.
There is something more eerie in Sorxe‘s presentation than in most other bands placed in the Post-Metal genre, though. Mid-song passages of wavering anticipation such as those found in Her Majesty, Make It So, and title track Surrounded By Shadows hint at a darker and more psychedelic lineage perhaps drawn from the members’ previous bands including Magnetplan and Graves At Sea. The punctuation they provide to the more straight forward metal heaviness opens up a space for breathing and reflection, which benefits music such as this where constant pummelling can err turn into the aforementioned churn of tiresome bullshit.
Production plays an important role here. As far as I can tell from the MP3 version provided, all instruments appear to have ample space in which to resonate whilst being brought together as a cohesive whole. Yelled vocals, often difficult to pin down with effective reverb or place within the rest of the music, capitulate the effort Tanner Crace has put into creating an ideal sound for his band. It’s a shame the cover art isn’t as strong as the other aspects of this album, having a slightly 1980s tacky heavy metal feel to it that utterly belies the music within.
I can only think of one reference point for Sorxe in terms of soundalikes and that would be the earlier works of “avant-garde metal” (another wordy description of nothing in particular) band Yakuza. Surrounded By Shadows shares an atmosphere with that Chicago band’s third full length Samsara due to its anomalous approach to genre and incorporation of jazz-like elements. Sorxe, however, do not use a saxophone nor make jazz influences a prominent part of their sonic catalogue. They stay firmly rooted within the normative boundaries of metal.
It is fairly obvious that Sorxe will not be the only one creating the sound that they do, and rather it is my ignorance of certain streets and alleyways within metal that makes the band sound unique, but it seems fair to suggest they are certainly proponents of a relatively obscure style of metal. More than post-metal but less than total genre-defying experimental music, Sorxe are a band to check out if only for the sakes of curiosity.
Scribed by: Glen Westall