XYAX – Ode to the Universe (in three parts)

XYAX is Dave Tremblay and Ben Norton. XYAX is self-described as “22nd-century electronic un-metal un-music”.

Lyrics are presented on their site: XYAX.net

We all love albums that give us “out of this world” experiences. Well XYAX’s entire concept is to bring you that. XYAX does what modern technical death metal and progressive bands fail to do on a daily basis. XYAX does not feed you a riff salad and actually brings you something that is truly innovate in it’s vocal approach, song structures, rhythmic diversity, and production values.

Even with being so technical and having many layers, “Ode to the Universe” is an extremely fun EP to listen to and will even have you trying to sing along with the rhythmically difficult vocals. XYAX does this by bringing fun unorthodox moments such as the extremely dense and chromatic harmonies of Ben’s vocals in “AREWEALONE?”, the piano lead and offbeat groove in “TOTHECOREOFTHEGALAXY!!1” at 3:21 reminding me of the band, “Pryapisme”, the beautiful vocal harmonies at 2:03 in VOIDSANDFILAMENTS, and the three vocal samples bringing life to the string sections in the trilogy.

The lyrical content behind XYAX goes very well with the entire concept of the project. It starts off with the name of the first song, “Are We Alone?”. The question of “Are We Alone?” is explored throughout the trilogy and we even comes back to this starling question at the end of “Voids and Filaments”. But XYAX gives us their thoughts on the trilogy’s question with the only single word from the postlude “Braneworld”.

XYAX doesn’t only ask us what is the future of mankind’s existence in this universe but asks what is the future of music with it’s unusual recording technique. EVERY instrument on “Ode To The Universe” is from midi and samples. That’s right those awesome guitar riffs were not recorded by a human. Here is a quote from Ben on how the guitars are recorded, “For guitar, I use Shreddage 2—just clean. I then re-amp it through my Axe-Fx II. It actually sounds surprisingly realistic. Works really well for hyper technical metal that is already uber-produced anyway.”

Modern bands in the djent and progressive metal are known for over-producing guitar tracks in order to capture a “tighter and cleaner response” by copying and pasting riffs, recording songs at half speed and speeding up to the proper tempo, and even recording each note individually and gluing the notes together. There has been a major backlash from the older generations in metal against two bands in particularly who are “Rings of Saturn” and “The Haarp Machine”, you can find many articles on them. To sum up the general consensus in the metal community is that if you plan to play your material live you better be able to play it. Much of this has come from the popularity of the tablature software “Guitar Pro” which guitarist use as composers to create music that they can not physically play but practice it until they can in the strive to become the “most progressive and/or technical” bands they can be.

XYAX uses this to their advantage by not hiding the fact that guitars weren’t recorded by a human and even embraces it into their overall concept of “un-human”. XYAX has shown us that their recording techniques for guitar sounds as well as any overproduced human playing. So what is the future for overproduced metal? Let us hope that it brings us more beautiful compositions like we see from XYAX and not used as a platform to churn out shitty chart toppers like how the pop industry has become.

Outstanding work by the duo of Dave and Ben.

There is also an 8-bit version of the EP: