CD Review

Clan Of Xymox - "Hidden Faces"

By Marcus Pan

Hidden FacesClan Of Xymox were formed about a decade and a half ago in Amsterdam, land of weed-by-the-menu. Their self-named debut release on 4AD in 1985 saw CoX rising quickly. In 1986 they released Medusa which showcased their darker side with a deeper sound and atmospheric backgrounds. Then in 1988 they passed from label 4AD to that of Wing, a subsidiary of giant corporation Polygram. At this time they did something unusual - they changed their name, shortened it to simply XYMOX, and changed their sound as well. Their new, more commercial and popular sound brought much chagrin from the underground dance floors. The original namesake, Clan Of Xymox, as well as the original sound wouldn't be rekindled until late 1996, when the band reinstated their original name and later in 1997 released Hidden Faces on Tess Records.

Indeed, Rat Bastard mentioned this in his recent Legends review of the CoX's latest release, Creatures, by stating: "Clan of Xymox's 1997 album, Hidden Faces, marked the abandonment of the pop-strocities committed during the band's stint as Xymox…" Rat goes on to say that while Hidden Faces was a step toward the original sound from the self-titled debut and Medusa era, it was still highly rock influenced. And you know, Rat's right. Hidden Faces is highly rock influenced with scraping guitar work, riff-slams and the like. As a matter of fact, the guitar work here is quite good providing a very stomping and spinning sound to the music. While it may not be the same sound of the original CoX, it is still a sound I quite enjoy.

Hidden Faces is a decent coagulation of rock-centric (Sister-like) guitars, well planned backing rhythm tracks and just enough electronica and programming to keep it from sounding like a pure SoM clone. They show obvious influences from this rock-pop style, maybe not fully shrugging off their Xymox days by this time, but the electronic programming and drum tracks breathe a life into the recordings that give them a unique feel. There are a couple of tripwires here - but for the most part Hidden Faces is a rather good album and does show the Clan coming back together to reclaim some of their old sound, attitudes and glory.

The album opens with the bright guitars and swift moving Out Of The Rain. This track, along with track 7, Sing A Song, are probably their most well known works off of this release. Sing A Song has a lot of guitar work. There's a box-style strumming in the background, a consistent fluorescent colored riff that brays in on occasion and the song itself is rather simple. These two tracks are probably the closest to the SoM/Cure style that CoX play. This is the rock influenced style that Rat spoke of. The second track, This World, opens with a soothing electronic strum that I rather enjoyed. It sets an excellent mood for the bass/guitar lines that come in about a minute and a half later. The guitars are used well in support of the hissing vocals.

Problem tracks include track 5, Wailing Wall. It includes an annoying tolling bell bonging through your head and a slow moving bass blundering the song ahead. The vocals are opera like. The Child In Me precedes this track - a moody piece with a simple yet powerful bass line. The guitars have been backgrounded here and the vocals are well done. From this you go into the annoying toll of Wailing Wall. It was like walking off a cliff and falling haphazardly (and painfully) into a different place.

Leaving behind their Polygram moniker of Xymox and bringing back the full Clan Of Xymox name with this release, you can still here quite a bit of a Cure/SoM rock-pop style throughout. The guitars are heavy and obvious, but rather well played. The CoX haven't come back full circle to their true original sound - but their heading this way. You can hear it, and by the time they finished with Hidden Faces and released their (current) latest Creatures two years later they've managed to mix their newer and older musical styles together. Still blending together in some areas due to similar execution and common sounds in separate tracks, Hidden Faces still delivers a good collection of pop-style gothic rock.

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