Xeno - Sojourn

(CD 2020, 65:47, Art Gates Records 240)

The tracks:
  1- Revery(1:22)
  2- In Stasis(6:00)
  3- Dusk(6:43)
  4- Epiphany(5:39)
  5- Exile(6:08)
  6- Nomad(5:47)
  7- Memories(2:29)
  8- Closure(5:30)
  9- Resurge(6:17)
10- Uncaged(6:32)
11- Sojourn(13:14)

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The initial foundation for what would become Xeno was laid in 2008 under the name of Semiasaz, but it would take until 2016 before their debut Atlas Construct was released under the moniker of Xeno. With several line-up changes since the release, a new album slowly came to life and in 2020 Sojourn saw the light of day. Also, the Dutch band grew to a six piece, featuring the returning members from their debut; vocalist and bass player Ruben Willemsen and guitarist Daniel de Coninck. New members are guitarist and vocalist Edwin Haan, guitarist Jasper Bruggeman, keyboard player Sean Lubbersen and drummer Richard van Leeuwen. The latter however saw himself replaced by Lars van Mourik.

Sojourn shows the potential of this band in all its variations. Listen to the short piano driven instrumental opener Revery and the following In Stasis. Incredible inventive progressive music with mesmerizing vocal parts, With a strong powerful guitar part and do I hear a hunch of a bossa nova rhythm here? The power and smoother elements perfectly balance this wonderful composition. When Dusk continues, the heaviness of the final part of the previous track lasts. Nasty grunts and heavy guitars are the main feature in this track, the melodic clean vocals and occasional keyboard parts and piano solo form a nice contrast and make this track work really well. During some of the compositions, the mesmerizing clean vocal parts are in the lead and the grunts have a minor part, during other tracks the grunts definitely are in the lead, so creating different vibes, but always in perfect harmony with each other. Epiphany is such a tune, taking the vocals of Parkway Drive and combining it with more mellow progressive rock parts. As a contrast with the previous track Exile and Nomad are pure brutal and see massive riffs and brutal grunts creating a sublime track, but also showing some minor delicate keyboard sections, which remind me of some Porcupine Tree segments, the atmospherically Memories shows another face of the band, serene and a nice build up towards Closure. A more delicate track, which only at three quarters of the track sees the first grunts. The guitar solo is purely amazing. The following Resurge sees both atmospherically elements but also some wonderful guitar soloing, perfectly balanced by massive riffs and death metal drum parts. The vibe of the previous track continues during Uncaged, including the fine guitars and subtle technical riffs. The highlight of the album is the final and title track of the CD; Sojourn. All the aforementioned elements are combined, added with theatrical elements, spoken words and fine bass playing that really stands out. A perfect way to finish the album.

Xeno is a band with a lot of potential, not afraid to experiment with their favourite genres and create something of their own. One of the more interesting Dutch releases of this year.

****+ Pedro Bekkers (edited by Dave Smith)

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