Trying to determine the most important record for the year is not an easy task, and for us, it has nothing to do with what the best album was over the past 12 months. We have always gone with our favorite, the one that had been in our listening arsenal the longest or most consistently. The one record we always found ourselves immersed inside no matter what was going on. We didn’t need to freshen up anything, because that album was always there, and for us that was “XXI,” the cataclysmic and twisted second record from Succumb. In this case, it also might be the best heavy metal record from a quality standpoint in all of 2021.
The title of the album—“XXI”—comes from the final Major Arcana card in the tarot deck, and it symbolizes the end of a life cycle or pause before the start of the new life cycle. The album takes on themes such as the elements and their natural deities (and they’re likely plotting their revenge on us for how we’re treating this place), Lilith, the Boxer Rebellion, Arthurian literature, and many other fertile, thought-provoking ideas, with vocalist/lyricist Cheri Musrasrik drawing on poets/writers such as William Butler Yeats, Jean Genet, and Émile Zola to fully flourish her gripping words. Her performance is like that of a demon trying to inform the world of the ills that ravage it while the rest of the band—guitarist Derek Webster, bassist/vocalist Kirk Spaseff, drummer Harry Cantwell—launches into terrain that is mind-ripping, destructive, and slaughtering, which will do a number on your sanity.
“Lilim” opens the record with chaotic tension, unloading and snarling with the howls stampeding, the guitars slicing into your muscles, and the track running headlong into “Maenad” that slowly boils in the juices of the nasty growls. “They danced around a phallic stone, giving over to revels and rages,” Musrasrik snarls as pure soot smudges, the guitars soar before touching back down, and abrasive disorientation leaves you gripping for the walls. “Okeanos” stirs the turmoil, clobbering as the vocals aggravated oil fires. “Foam in a revolving whorl touches an unknown and sublime abyss,” Musrasrik sneers as your psyche is stomped into the ground, corroding and delivering a mauling finish. “Graal” scrambles impulses as it starts amid guitars hanging in the air and stinging the senses, with vicious growls swiping at you. “A divine substance held in the bloody relic, illusory phantoms, and secret words spoken to a knave,” Musrasrik digs as parts of the song get muddy and dangerously slow before things fire up again and thrash mightily, stomping out its foe. “8 Trigrams” closes the record, starting with militaristic drums and ominous tones, setting a strange ambiance that soon aims to remove your head. Things get dizzying and odd, with Musrasrik wailing, “Headless fighters and spirit guards are at war with mortals, shadowboxers moving in unison and covered by protective charms.” This record is an absolute mindfuck, a beast that knows no bounds and leaves you a psychological mess. All hail Succumb and their mission to mash death metal in their putrid image. (Sept. 24)
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/succumbsf
To buy the album, go here: https://nowflensing.com/collections/flenser-releases
For more on the label, go here: https://nowflensing.com/