This EP consists of one track of twenty-four and a half minutes’ length. That could be just the time you need to find a spelling of the band name that you’re confident is correct. Qrixkuor’s Orchestral Death Metal inferno however isn’t willing to give you many breathers to quietly ponder over that question.
We’re living in great times for incorporating classical elements into ´Metal. There were days when it was mostly the Malmsteen-types showing off or the strings being brought in mainly as the sugary counterpart to the “evil” Metal sound in a very flat and unsatisfactory fashion. And if there were serious attempts by the likes of Celtic Frost or Paradise Lost, whose own skills didn’t keep up with their ambitions yet, you could be sure that the hired Classical musicians just did their job and spat into the beers of those dilettantes behind their backs.*
And look where we are now! We have a serious mutual interest of musicians from far apart disciplines of Metal, Classical music (and Jazz, Folk, Electronica etc.), trailblazers like Imperial Triumphant and many other groups of the Black, Death or Doom Metal spectrum (e.g. Blut Aus Nord, Skythala, The Otolith) pulling from all sources as they please, treating Classical parts as equal to their rock instrumentation. On the other side there’s cellist/composer Jo Quail writing a purely Neoclassical suite without any guitars or such, but still heavily influenced by Metal.
In this environment, Qrixkuor’s 2021 album Poison Palinopsia didn’t appear to descend entirely from another planet. The ambitious scope of their abyssal Blackened Death Metal presented in two relentless suites of twenty-four and a half minutes’ length each, however still was quite enormous to behold. No, you’re not alone! We’re all experiencing the déjà vu, because I’ve mentioned exactly that track duration before. Don’t ask me if has any inherent magickal qualities or if it’s just a decision based on vinyl side capacity, but somehow the Death Brits are drawn to it as they continue their mission with this equally ginormous chunk called “Zoetrope (Psychospiritual Sparagmos)”.
And Qrixkuor don’t waste any of that double dozen minutes time, but almost immediately flood you with an overwhelming tide of everything their unique sound is about, paired with the unspoken yet unequivocal announcement that there will be even more of everything this time! You guess it, since my introduction would otherwise be wasted: the one thing among those everythings amped up the most is the symphonic part, which had already been prominently present on the previous album, but now fights for supremacy in (dis)harmony and sheer volume against multiple layers of riffs, constantly present sick lead guitars and cavernous growls on a battleground tremoring under an earthquake of blasts and doublebass beats.
Given that the production successfully aims for a chaotic overpowering of your senses with a devastating atmosphere of Lovecraftian horror, mixing the sonic overkill of Esoctrilihum with the grotto reverb of Grave Miasma, it is actually quite remarkable not only how powerful and purposeful this sounds, but also how discernable at least most of the instruments are, once you concentrate on identifying them - which isn’t always easy, because you have to fortify your perception against being washed away by the pure force of this hell stream to do so.
Zoetrope is a bloodthirsty alpha beast of an EP, probably among the very best this metal year has given us. Swirling dissonant and oldschool Death Metal with Black Metal aesthetics to a raving frenzy of cosmic madness, it is not only a masterclass on eye level with the greatest in this particular stylistic niche, but it’s also a veritable tool to hammer all those countless cheesy cruelties we had to endure under the banner of “Symphonic Metal” for decades to tiny pieces. In this spirit the final words of this review have to be read with the voice of Captain Metal America:
*Disclaimer: The formulating serves the purpose of entertainment and is meant to illustrate a general tendency. By no means do I actually own factual knowledge of every classical musician working with the mentioned bands spitting into their respective beverages.