Someone at UNIQUE LEADER deserves a medal for the insane number of killer bands that the label has been pushing over the last few years. The current rude health of the death metal scene can definitely be attributed, in part, to the advancement of bands like XENOBIOTIC: obvious students of the post-millennial deathcore and tech-death era, but also a band that have a clear and admirable desire to wring something fresh from such a well-established list of components. Having made a strong impression (with many fans of technical death metal and deathcore at least) with their vicious 2018 album "Prometheus", this Australian quintet have plenty of momentum at this point, and "Mordrake" is the kind of mature and ambitious follow-up that should keep them heading onwards and upwards.
Immaculately produced and exerting some sickening sonic weight, songs like "Light that Burns the Sky" skim across genres with insouciant skill, taking in balls-out melodic death metal, hazy post-metal grandeur and machine-gun beatdowns, all within five succinct minutes. "Inverted" is a more streamlined and violent affair, imbued with the lurch 'n' snap of post-djent riffing but immersed in coruscating blackness, too. XENOBIOTIC exhibit even more progressive flair during the gloomy sprawl of "Saphris" and the deathly sci-fi travelogue of the closing, two-part title track, both of which belie that pesky deathcore tag by being fascinating, intricate and profoundly atmospheric. Vocalist TJ Sinclair acquits himself brilliantly, eschewing guttural slurry in favor of a grim, militaristic bark that ensures that every vocal hook obliterates its target. Inbuilt extremity aside, XENOBIOTIC have room for subtlety too: the textural discord that oozes from the speakers during "Acedia" is genuinely unnerving, like some warped, microtonal weapon of warfare; "Grieving the Loss of Self" is as harrowing as its title suggests, but with sledgehammer riffs and crazed velocity to spare; "Fractured" is a frantic blizzard of corkscrew polyrhythms, off-beam grooves and blackened, spidery guitar figures.
"Mordrake" never conforms to any particular one-track trend, but neither does it forget to punch the crap out of everything and everyone. This is a smart, creative and deep record from a band with bags of imagination and the chops to deliver a serious, deathly kicking. Superior stuff, then.