Zi Xul – Carven Of Old

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“Carven Of Old”, the second Zi Xul demo tape in its brief three-year existence, represents a considerable leap forward in terms of writing, while being a gigantic step backward as far as production is concerned. The band is still centered on Jerry Brouwer (vocals, rhythm guitar) and Oskar Van Paradijs (lead guitar, backing vocals), with Valentijn de Ruijter providing studio drums for the session. It was the last Zi Xul effort before Brouwer and Van Paradijs were asked to join Centurian for the “Liber Zar Zax” recording. It was the swansong for a band that had enough talent to be its own entity.

Whereas “Beyond Human Rewarding” had some minor thrash metal leanings in its architecture “Carven Of Old” sounds like “Of Purest Fire” era Centurian and burdgeoning South American force Krisiun, specifically “Black Force Domain”. In terms of soloing there’s a definite Morbid Angel influence. While Jerry Brouwer’s vocals remain as percussive as ever, they seem to be better enunciated this second time around. There’s a greater focus on Oskar van Paradijs’ spectacular leads/solo acrobacy, and the greater percussive propulsion by Valentijn de Ruijter adds to the level of density that is otherwise lacking on this second demo. A wider choice of vocal styles links this second demo effort to Kataklysm circa “Sorcery” in its overall intensity and unhingedness.

Zi+Xul+logoZi Xul’s overall sound has improved manifold with denser, labyrinthine riffing, more ambitious lead playing, and far more diversified drumming. Oskar Van Paradijs’ riffing has come into its own, and his mesmerizing leads/solos are far more emotive than they were on the prior demo tape. The addition of a studio drummer makes “Carven Of Old” sound far more humane than the mechanical blasting of “Beyond Human Rewarding”. ‘As-Xul’, ‘Consecration’, and ‘The Return’ sound stylistically similar to the Centurian record they would feature on a year later. ‘Crawling Chaos’ is redolent of Morbid Angel in its opening section, and has several thrashy, rapid start-stop sections. Jerry Brouwer’s vocals are as percussive as ever, but he adopted a deeper tone for this demo tape that loses some of its impact due to the makeshift production. Oskar Van Paradijs’ serpentine solos feature more prominently, and they are integrated better in comparison to the previous demo. From the previous demo ‘Chastening’ and ‘Riding the Hordes’ were re-recorded. Overall there’s a more pronounced Morbid Angel influence on “Carven Of Old”.

As was the case with the preceding demo “Carven Of Old” was entirely home-recorded and self-produced on a limited budget. It is rather disappointing to note that the thin production is substantially worse, and not nearly as beefy as the “Beyond Human Rewarding” demo tape of three years prior. The rhythm guitar has lost a lot of its crunch and concreteness, and the mesmerizing leads/solos sound strangely muffled and buzzing. A close comparison in terms of production would be the Rebaelliun “At War” demo from 1998. Even though the demo is hampered by its makeshift production, the music speaks for itself. Without a shred of doubt Zi Xul was a promising newcomer within the more brutal subset of the death metal genre. Contemporary in execution, but clearly rooted in the genre’s not too distant past the duo offered the best of both worlds. Different prints of the “Carven Of Old” tape were circulated by the central duo. Some versions of the tape came with 2 re-recorded bonus tracks from the “Beyond Human Rewarding” session, respectively ‘Subjugation Of the Flesh’ and ‘Fulfillment’.

“Carven Of Old” was independently released and distributed by the band in 2000. It is a fitting eulogy to the short-lived Zi Xul as its core duo moved on to the stylistically similar Centurian. That they eventually would end up joining the latter isn’t much of a surprise as Zi Xul was moving into the same general direction as its more established counterpart. The result of the union would be “Liber Zar Zax”, the last Centurian record to feature co-founders Rob Oorthuis (lead guitar) and Wim van Der Valk (drums). “Carven Of Old” transcends its obvious shortcomings in production due to its considerable merits; it was an all too premature epitaph for a band that should have grown into its own entity. As shortlived as Zi Xul ended up being their legacy remains unquestioned. As an unsigned act they were far more potent than a great deal of their more established peers.

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