After some already impressive starts, Zs have found their stride and an ideal lineup with the addition of Greg Fox (Liturgy, Guardian Alien, Man Forever) and guitarist and composer Patrick Higgins. Xe creeps through dark alleyways of sound, banging threateningly on the walls in a "Warriors, come out and play" sneer. On the surface, Xe is minimal, shades of grey hiding forms of grey, but as it unfolds, as the listener hones in on each track, those hidden fine details flesh themselves out like precise bite marks worked into metal. Fox acts as a jagged anchor for the record, tethering the surrounding din in place with a gnarled bout of rhythmic fury that burns bright but not so hot that it ever overpowers. He leaves plenty of room for squalls of sax, guitars that slash and quaver in equal measure and an air of quiet menace that plays between the lines. In some ways it’s hard to believe that this was recorded beginning to end, straight to tape, but in many respects it seems it could be harnessed no other way. Any room for embellishments and afterthoughts is ruled out, Xe is rehearsed chaos, but its of the moment, teetering on collapse but spinning furiously to keep that collapse in check. Zs have peaked my interest before, but here, they have my full attention and leave me wanting more each time it ends.
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