Unpronounceable name? Check. Stage names that aren’t names? Check. Production that sounds like a cell phone encased in a concrete block and duct-taped to the ceiling of the rehearsal space? Check. It seems that AATXE don’t have much going for them off the bat. Except for one thing. Their songwriting talent is enough to eclipse all of these other issues and turn Cardinal into a venom-spitting good time, worthy of multiple repeat spins. Congratulations guys. You dodged the bullet by the skin of your teeth and delivered. Hats off.
To call this straight-up black metal would miss the point entirely. There’s a rough hardcore edge to AATXE’s flailing, where the influence of Converge is almost as strong as anything Norwegian. Frontman JP could be pictured in corpse paint or in a street punk bandana and it wouldn’t make much of a difference. He’s a versatile singer with a talent for vocal beatdowns, in the style of The Dillinger Escape Plan. On “Serrata” and “Human Filth Menagerie”, his guitar and voice combine to sound like a fucking bulldozer. These are highlights of an album that’s over far too quickly for its own good.
At the other end of the spectrum, there’s the peculiarly named Mr. Lavoy on bass. It’s perfectly acceptable for black metal to sound like it’s recorded in a basement, in a cave, under an overpass and soundproofed with aluminum sheeting, but even in this genre, there has to be a limit. His clacking and rattling basslines sound muted, and often too loud in the mix. What could be a sinister rumble sounds instead like badly tuned tom-tom in places, bouncing off the fretboard in pops and unintentional slaps. There’s hope though, as on “Carpetbaggers” final breakdown he hits the sweet spot that eludes him elsewhere. Focus on that, and not on whatever-the-hell-is-going-on in “Circle the Terrace”. Could have used some retakes on that one. E-Gor does an admirable job on drums, even if the production doesn’t let him thunder quite the way he could.
All the pieces are there, and AATXE is on the right track. Spend some more time of polishing (even for an intentionally unpolished sound) and they could see themselves signed before the decade is over. This is the kind of thing that hardcore metalheads eat up like candy.
Written by Max Morin
*edited by Mike Milito