Review: Xalpen “Sawken Xo’on” [Black Lodge Records]

Review: Xalpen “Sawken Xo’on” [Black Lodge Records]

- in Reviews

In the end of July Black Lodge Records have re-released the debut album “Sawken Xo´on” of Chilean black metal band Xalpen. Originally it was released almost year ago by Morbid Skull Records and Nigredo Productions, but due to a limited number of physical copies and not very good sound, Xalpen have decided to join forces with Black Lodge and to publish it with remastered sound.

Nowadays black metal is mostly just one more extreme musical genre with superficial ideological interests or it’s even oriented more on social and casual lyrics. Visual aspect is strong even now, but still for many bands black metal is just their favorite music, but not an ideology or a lifestyle, like it was with the first black metal bands of early 90s. Of course, there are plenty of black metal bands who are serious about their image, music and stylistic compliance, and Xalpen belongs to those indulgent and devoted followers. For Xalpen the occult side of the band’s image isn’t less important than the music itself. The title “Sawken Xo´on” is taken from native language of Argentinian/Chilean indigenous people of America, the tribe called Selk’nam (or Ona or Onawo). This tribe was deeply involved in occult practices and shamanistic rituals; and on “Sawken Xo´on” the Chilean musicians have resurrected these ancestral traditions into their debut album. And though musically the occult and psychedelic traces are almost inaudible, still, they imbue the music with the atmosphere of ritualistic nature, making their black metal sound darker and more significant.

But musically “Sawken Xo´on” is a traditional raw black metal record, filled with the bleakest hatred and genuine satanic devotion. The re-recorded material still doesn’t sound perfectly clean, but for raw black metal formation there’s no need to sound extremely polished. And because of these sound manipulations the songs sometimes are too chaotic and messy, especially when they speed up to the craziest pace. The juicier and more composed sound immediately mutes up the dirtiness and reminds of Scandinavian wave of orthodox black metal bands (especially tracks “Among the Pillars of Death (Han on Outeken Chesk)” or “Tres Chamanes (Sawken Xo´on)”). The traditional black metal structural patterns, fast rhythm, atmospheric background, primitive guitar riffs and uncompromising aggression make this album truly loyal to pure black metal concepts with merciless precision. Certain melodic lines can’t spoil the overall perception of evilness and unswerving rage in compositions “Dark Nights of Winter (On Stekenjhio’ Joshckek)” or “Han K´win Saik (For Those Who Have Departed)”, there’s too strong passion for diabolical malice. But the last song “The Formidable Fumes of Hell-Fire (On Tohown Tahner on K´ar Xawqekyen)” is more pensive and serious in its meticulous structural design and slower and more thoughtful performance. So, these 44 minutes will pierce the listener with its ceremonial fury and ancestral spirit of black magic.

The occult image and black metal clichés are sacredly practiced by Xalpen, not only through occult lyrics and the music itself, but through their visual representation and cover art. So technically everything is soaked in the atmosphere of purest black metal and spiritual energy of death, “Sawken Xo´on” totally crushes all the doubts or skeptical soft spots for the genre, with such bands as Xalpen black metal still strongly remembers of its roots.

Release date: July 30th, 2021

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