Originally from Europe, these now California based industrial black metallers have released their debut album which is going to be a must for fans of Deathstars, Ministry, The Kovenant, Front Line Assembly, mid-era Septic Flesh and more. About the first thing you'll notice on the disc is how much it crunches, which Astaroth handles quite nicely. These are the kind of Ministry level groove/crunches that back with furious bouts of drums courtesy of Crucifactor, who brings off that hard-edge that listeners want from this kind of music. It's so competently played as far as the structure of these pieces is concerned, that it gives me the feel of classic industrial rock/metal in the vein of Psalm 69 with a touch of unexpected Goth that reminds me much of Deathstars.
Though Astaroth doesn't use as many tremolos on this record as you might expect, every song on the disc has it's own unique feel – especially the album's finale, “In Memoriam” which is definitely an unexpected and rather somber moment that doesn't sound like anything else in the band. Listeners might be a bit shocked by the ending as the rest of this disc is quite heavy, but even this piece contains hints of the Gothic organs that adorn sections of this record when the tremolos aren't being utilized. Astaroth also lays down a few unexpected melodic leads in areas, but nothing that really takes away from the performance as a whole.
When we look at a track like opener, “Flesh Reich” we can see how lyrically there's not much to it, and it almost feels like a long introduction to the album – but if we keep listening, we'll find that the ghostly keys and ferocious drum abrasions do help to add weight to this performance as a whole. Sometimes frontman Massaker will use a robotic voice filter which adds to the whole post-apocalyptic “Cyber Chemical Warfare” of the thing. It's odd when you can use a song title to describe the band as a whole, but this is definitely what we have here. Even if you don't like the Goth approaches in the vocal front, you might find something within the chunky industrial of the act as a whole. Mechanik War III do not beat around the bush about their Goth elements, but if you've always thought that bands like Deathstars weren't heavy enough, I think you'll find something in Xtermination.
I'll be honest. Even though I did an interview with Deathstars during the run of their last album The Perfect Cult, I still consider that record to be the single worst recording they've ever made. I was kind of expecting something a bit more like this. That's not to say there are too many similarities between the two acts, because as I've noted, Mechanik War III are a much heavier act. While Goth remains a huge part of the disc, Xtermination is still a thunderously brutal take on the genre and it shows some real muscle where I believe it is needed. Though the band use electronic elements, I couldn't call them a sort of “untz untz” act either. Even considering the dance-club friendly bits on “Apocalypse X69” there are so many crushing elements to this disc that fans of the genre are going to be quite enthralled.
Unfortunately there are no full-on guitar solos, but Astaroth does balance well with Crucifactor in the melody department, which offers a good sense of purpose along with the absolutely relentless drumming on this one. It's great to see proper symmetry within these two unlikely elements, especially considering the fact that the drums do not drown out the guitars here. That seems to happen one too many times on these kinds of records, so hearing a band that have made it work with just three guys is something of an accomplishment on their part.
Additionally, Mechanik War III creates a sense of equality within their Goth and industrial elements that doesn't see the album drained completely by either one. The black metal tremolos aren't overused either, and the record doesn't go into full blast beats often, which is great in my opinion. Several other bands would have done that, but the listener can tell just from listening to the album that these gentlemen have done their industrial homework. Perhaps it's a bit more industrial Goth metal than industrial black metal, and that's fine. We don't have an awful lot of bands that perform that approach, let alone bands that do it as well as these guys.
Xtermination isn't a perfect album by any means, but it is far better than I would have ever expected and could seriously put these guys on the map. We could have a real contender in the scene here, so definitely keep your eyes on this act. Without a doubt, Xtermination is one of the best Gothic industrial records I've heard all year. Yet it is also one of the only Gothic industrial albums I've heard all year, which is certainly not a bad thing.
(11 Tracks, 47:00)