French synthwave guru, Volkor X, writes electronic music for metalheads, so it makes sense for him to create a new project that is, uh… metal. The man who brought us This is Our Planet Now in 2020 will no doubt be aware of Perturbator and Cult of Luna’s collaboration effort last year which culminated in the debut Final Light album. But, unlike that record, Volkor X commits eighty percent of Draxhan’s purpose to thrashing through an arsenal of crushing metal riffs as if auditioning for a support slot with Decapitated. On vocals, he brings in the enigmatic Sab Elvenia of The Fundamental Wisdom of Chaos. Guest guitarists line up to contribute solos on three of the four tracks. This is serious art.
Of course, Volkor X likes to play with your perceptions. The opening to ‘Bringer of Light’ prepares you for a gory feast of Carpenter Brut synth action but blindsides you with a forceful black metal thrust after one minute and five seconds. Laser synths give way to atonal tremolo guitars and rapid double-timing beats as Sab Elvenia unleashes her almighty roar like a hostile specimen from another planet. You’re still narrowing your eyes when a palette-cleanser of Daft Punk vocoder lines intrude upon the Dødheimsgard experimentation. Should we be surprised that Volkor X’s idea of metal involves the rhythmic genius of Meshuggah as his main engine of inspiration? Listen to the off kilter chugging and death metal voice abrasions before the duo return to their black metal drill for the climax. You might not have contemplated the prospect of a cosmic take on Dark Funeral – here it is.
“Cinematic” and “djent” are two words that should not go together, but Sab Elvenia’s switch to a sultry head voice in the manner of Vicky Psarakis (The Agonist) on ‘Atomic Cult of Resurrection’ entices you into its spell like an invitation from a parallel universe. She takes her time to establish a vocal line that exists beyond beginner level but listen to the way she clings on to the words in the emotive line, “Losing ourselves/ To find our path to the sacred stars.” Now you can hear the magnificence of Tatiana Schmailyuk (Jinjer) in the cadences of her words. At what point this song turns into an immersive post-metal lament is hard to identify, but fans of The Ocean will be impressed by it in the same way the air guitar devotees will marvel at the glorious rock solo from Soilwork’s Sylvain Coudret.
It’s hard to believe that the French duo can fit so much into twenty-one minutes of music. Yet they don’t cram anything to make up for a shortage of time. Melodies float in the cosmos. Guitar riffs combust with menace. The chance to reflect at track number three (‘Transmutations’) is a welcome one. Here, soothing keyboards provide the mysticism while a Mark Knopfler-esque guitar solo speaks to you in the language of healing. Closing song, ‘Blackened Stars’, locates the post-metal sound in an interstellar universe. The guitars bubble underneath a surface of spacey atmospherics. Sab Elvenia pushes her voice towards a murderous euphoria of hissing. You can feel your eyes expanding in preparation for the blinding light that will vaporise humankind in a second big bang.
According to Volkor X, this EP is only the beginning of a four-part concept album. This being the case, we should be thrilled by the prospect of three more records as rich in imagination as this one. Draxhan’s debut EP will leave you wondering what’s out there in the great beyond.
Release Date: 21/04/2023
Record Label: Self Released
Standout tracks: Bringer of Light, Blackened Stars
Suggested Further Listening: Dødheimsgard – Black Medium Current (2023), Final Light – Final Light (2022), Omega Infinity – The Anticurrent (2023)