Discovering music is an adventure. Some stay within their comfort zones, others step out of it with the hope of being rewarded by finding something that resonates with them. But sometimes even the most thought out musical experiment, however talented the band, does not pay off.
I find myself with a band featuring talented members, whose music on the one hand is well crafted and polished, but did not resonate with me in the same way as rap metal bands from the 1990s did. But I am fairly confident that Xombie’s new album, Capital X, will fare quite well with lovers of the genre.
There is clear talent and passion as well as a certain refinement typical of albums that have been polished to a high shine, in Capital X. This metal, hip-hop, “hood metal” five-piece band was formed in New York City at the beginning of 2010, and consists of Adam “Atom Crews” Cruz (lead vocals), Robert “Fish” Fishkin (lead guitar), Roy Galvan (lead guitar), “Cadillac” Mike Martabano (bass), and Eric Castillo (drums). If I could only use one word to define their seven-track album, it would be “boisterous”, a reflection no doubt of the city that inspired the album. As Cruz explains, “New York City can be the most unforgiving place in the world if you let it beat you. But if you keep playing the game, eventually you’ll win big. That’s what this album is about.”
The band jumps right into it, after a couple of initial, deceptively calm notes, with a high tempo, headbanging, rap/guitar-driven opening track, “Velocarapper”. The song is composed of three distinct pieces that come together through their tempo and overall energy. It is an intense song in which the band members each demonstrate their instrumental or vocal skills, and which sets the bar quite high for the rest of the album.
“Rock Bottom”, the band’s first single, is the churning follow-up, which keeps up the high energy of the opening track, but increases the tempo and the intensity of the record. You can feel the band playing this track with wild energy and abandon, a good reflection of the topic of the song. That is, the struggles one has to go through to get back up after one hits rock bottom. Xombie is unapologetic, unabashedly expressing its rage as well as its indignant, ire-driven determination to conquer it all and make it, because after all, there is nowhere to go but up when one hits rock bottom. This could be quite a cathartic track for those who have reached such lows, although the anger is something they would have to then let go of to be able to make their way back into the light.
The album slows down with “Miss Behave” while maintaining the elements that defined its first two tracks: emotion-laced vocals, well-placed guitars, and strongly supportive drumming, matching appropriately the theme of painful relationships. The genres the song touches on are a little more diverse here; there are still strong elements of rap and metal, but the softer side of the track lends it a hard rock sensibility.
While the first notes of “Polar Ice” do give you the shivers, the by-now typical intensity and energy of the song would surely melt anything remotely associated with polar ice. Interestingly enough, despite the noisy nature of this musical genre, “Polar Ice” is even noisier than the other tracks already on this album. It’s a little messy at times, with each band member taking their instrument (including vocals) on a completely different path from the other, but still managing to eventually bring it all back together. And once again, this suits the theme of the song perfectly: alcoholism and drunk driving.
“Rotten Apple” is more of the same, and yet, again, different, which, again, demonstrates the instrumental and vocal talent of the group. It is hard, fast, heavy, and furious, a tongue-in-cheek commentary on New York – the Big Apple. The album’s title track, despite being the penultimate one, manages to crank up the energy even more, bringing it to an almost spluttering level. It comes back down – but only relatively so – to the level of most of the tracks in the album in its closing track, “Friday (You Might Have Missed It),” which features, aptly enough, a hummingbird-sharp and fast guitar riff.
Even if the album did not resonate with me, the passion and talent are undeniable, and lovers of the genre will probably find in Capital X an album that they will enjoy. More information is available on their website. The album can be streamed on SoundCloud.