Album: The Gathering
The worst nightmares we have are based on our past experiences: infinitely more terrifying iterations of instances that occurred days, weeks or years ago that we just can’t seem to shake. So take a moment now and imagine the most horrifying thing you have ever experienced. Now make it worse—ten times, twenty times, two hundred times worse. Were you with friends? Imagine if you were alone. Was it light? Imagine it in the dark. Beginning to get the idea? Good—because even your worst moment made a million times worse doesn’t begin to compare to xKINGx’s horrifying debut full-length record, The Gathering. In a word, The Gathering is abysmal—not in quality, but in nature. It is heavier than ten planets and darker than absolute nothingness. With the unbelievably heavy experience that is The Gathering, xKingx have crafted a true juggernaut that feasts on the listener’s happiness and grows from their pain. They have done the impossible: make a murderously original, 65-minute long nightmare that avoids monotony almost as fervently as it avoids all things light and ethereal.
xKINGx aren’t about subtly. With the straightforward and honest tagline, “it’s not about technicality, it’s about brutality,” the listener likely knows exactly what they’re in for: a chug-heavy, “brootal” amalgam of songs with some memorable breakdowns and not much else. The listener could hardly be more wrong. While The Gathering is a hellish hodgepodge of heaviness that sounds as if it could have come straight out of Satan’s ass crack, there is hardly a second of filler in the album’s impressive 65 minute run time. Each beefy thud from percussionist Cameron Marygold’s kick drum hits harder than the last, leaving the listener’s head a pile of bone fragments and grey matter by the time the album is done. Marygold’s drumming is murderous—at times punctual, like the two-steeply segments of “Dead Remission” and “Reckoning”—but other times, as slow and painful as knives dragged along the listener’s back. The enthralling opener, “Lifeless” is an exceptional example. Marygold’s monstrous percussion is made even beefier by Joey Magallanes’ mammoth bass grooves, with chugs so thick it sounds as if he’s playing with electrical wires rather than bass strings. If Marygold’s drumming alone was lethally heavy, Magallanes’ bass work makes it nearly unbearable.
But xKINGx aren’t done yet.
Guitarists Zach Gilman and Randol Moreno lay down a chug-laden, over-the-top display of furious fretwork that is so heavy, the listener will have shit out their spinal column by the time “Lifeless” is through. Gilman and Mareno let loose a lurid display of crushing guitar playing accented by eerie, highly-fretted harmonics and accents and grimy grooves (“Deliver Us From Evil”) drops these on the listener’s head) that is simply terrifying. Moments like the climax in “Deliver Us from Evil” or the build up in “The Collector” will raise goosebumps on the listener’s skin and send shivers down their spine colder than liquid nitrogen.
Where xKINGx’s instrumentation is battering and bone-breaking, their vocals are oppressive, effortlessly smothering the listener. The Gathering is home to one of the best displays of consistently low, guttural gurgles since Aegaeon’s Being. There is hardly a high scream that escapes Jordan LeGore’s throat–every syllable he spits is as thick, heavy and grimy as molten tar, pouring into the listener’s mouth and melting their lungs. LeGore’s last name is fitting, as his grisly growls and ferocious shouts on “Lifeless” and “Flesh Wounds” especially are nothing short of immaculate (in the filthiest way imaginable). LeGore refuses to let one opportunity slip by without shearing the listener’s ears with his abrasive, gritty vocal style, with sounds like someone scraping sandpaper against rotten flesh. His visceral, intelligible vocals accent his horrifying, hyper-aggressive lyrics, painting pictures of brutality and misanthropy with gallons of the listener’s blood.
If you skipped to the end and saw the rating, you’re likely awaiting an explanation as to why The Gathering warranted such supreme praise. You’re looking for the kicker—what makes xKINGx different? How does their vocalist avoid monotony and how does this album not get old, fast? The answer is simple: xKINGx do something very few bands have done before—and something even fewer bands have done well. With a whopping fourteen guest vocal appearances, from legends like Adam Warren and Dickie Allen, The Gathering feels almost like a greatest hits compilation of heavy music frontmen. What listeners have been doing with playlists for eons, xKINGx have done with their album. Each guest appearance has a tasteful contribution—neither stealing the show or phoning in a couple shallow syllables—making The Gathering a remarkably immersive experience. What’s more is that with each vocal appearance, the dynamic and feel to each song changes ever so slightly. It’s still xKINGx, and it’s still ruthlessly heavy, but it isn’t the same series of sinister chugs. “Deceiver” makes the most of Rex’s Anthony Alexander to carve a catchy groove and insidious vocals into the listener’s flesh—while Warren’s section on “The Collector” is simply jaw-dropping. Each guest vocalist works expertly with LeGore and xKINGx’s musical backbone to provide a unique experience that gives The Gathering remarkable replay value.
The Gathering is somehow simultaneously the soundtrack to the listener’s nightmares and their wildest dreams coming true. Technicality be damned, for xKINGx provide limitless heaviness with no room for relent or reprieve, making their debut full length a prodigal entry into heavy music’s hall of fame.
For Fans Of: all things heavy
By: Connor Welsh