Whether you consider yourself to be someone who prefers Metallica or Pink Floyd, Xilla’s debut full-length Distant Minds has something that will most certainly leave you satisfied. The impressive technical juggernaut sees the five-piece prog rock band from Birmingham, UK pay homage to their wide array of heavy metal, progressive, and psychedelic influences not only throughout the entire album, but arguably within each of the album’s ten tracks. Because of this–and the fact that the bulk of the tracks range in length from just over five minutes, to just over 12 (with the exception of the intro “Crux”)– it almost makes more sense to refer to specific segments of each rather than take them as a homogenous wholes in and of themselves.
The tone of the album cascades around Oates’ heavier metal yet uplifting vocals, atmospheric, and psychedelic guitar which at its best is reminiscent of David Gilmour circa the Division Bell era, and Smyth’s understated, yet wickedly paced drums. Although progressive, with consistently changing time signatures in the vein of Mars Volta, tracks such as “Let Me Breathe,” “You Crawl,” and “Everything At Once” tend to breakdown into big solos or hooks around the three to four minute mark, which then transform into big distorted chords and spiralling metal solos. Then there’s “Catharsis” and “Left to Burn” in which Flanagan and Greg Pullin’s guitars hit you much earlier–rather than mid track–setting up a high bar for what follows.
For me, the best parts of Distant Minds can be found within the massive track “Left to Burn”–particularly the first half. The first minute kicks off with one of the most beautiful, almost gentle riffs of the album and is perfectly complimented by Oates’ best, most effortless vocals. Around the three minute mark the track slides into atmospheric noise and feedback such as that in Pink Floyd’s Echoes. The transition and tempo change around five minute mark is held down by Symth’s showcased percussion as it shifts from sweet psychedelia to unforgiving heavy rock. In its two-tone composition, “Left to Burn” is emblematic of the sheer depth encased in Distant Minds. While I personally prefer the more psychedelic moments, it is difficult to say which sound Xilla does better.
Written by Jordan Hodgins
*edited by Danielle Kenedy