Release Title: Gamera
Album Art By: Jeff Zornow
Label: Super Sargasso
Release Date: 16 December 2022
Location: Illinois, USA
Digital Price: 9.49 USD
Length: 30min 9s
I hit play on Blocking the Sun, the first track on Gamera, the new release by an Illinois project called Xexyz. I’m instantly met with some wailing guitars worthy of some classic 80s thrash. Suddenly, I hear what appears to be a.. Super Nintendo? That’s right, a SNES – I’m a little bit shocked to hear those turbo-grinch black metal vocals while someone has apparently circuit bent a SNES and, I find out, a Game Boy too for their blackened speed metal project. Typically, with this sort of music, the last thing you expect to hear are some funky 8- and 16-bit tones woven into the song. But Gamera have somehow done it, playing a SNES and a Game Boy where there would normally be keyboards. Somehow it works, without being too jarring as it often can be. Not only that, but it’s about Gamera.
If you’re not familiar with Gamera, I won’t spend too long with the details. The short version is that Gamera is a kaiju (giant monster) in the tradition of King Kong, a massive turtle who can fly with jets in his shell, shoot plasma balls, and sometimes breathe fire too. He’s typically good-aligned and protects Earth, and he’s also far funnier and cooler than Godzilla in this writer’s opinion. Gamera’s worst enemy by now is Gyaos, a giant bat-like creature that shoots supersonic death beams. That’s why it’s so damn funny when we see the band write stuff like, “The turtle is Satan, the world is Gyaos”. Gamera here is a very black metal symbol of the planet’s ultimate destruction, “Gamera: Gyaos destruction strategy.”
It feels appropriate with these themes then that there’s a Gamera cult complete with 80s style guitar wailing guitar solos in Worship Him. Honestly, the guitar work in this album is often just so much fun when it has that “80s dudes pounding guitars” sounds, little guitar wails and solos. It’s good enough in those moments that it leaves me wanting more, and I hope that’s an element that continues to develop.
Worship Him is perhaps one of the tracks where the use of Game Boy and SNES elements is integrated the best, feeling seamlessly integrated with the greater whole of the track rather than being just another layer added in. Little elements like way they sync up with the guitar riff after two minutes in, or the ominous pitch they add to the final moments of the track really show the potential of these instruments. They don’t have to be just a gimmick – you can produce some good atmosphere using them.
The main person behind this project is JR Preston, who plays most every instrument – guitar, synth, SNES, bass, and he sings as well. So when you hear the black metal turbo-grinch pop up, or the soaring clean wails, that’s JR. He also recruited Scott Michaels (Virgin Idol) for drum work on the album, who programmed the Game Boy and drum parts. They are a duo that has produced something that isn’t just innovative, but a delight to listen to. It’s good enough that after listening to the album a few times, I went back and checked out Death Mountain, JR’s previous release. It had a much more black metal vibe to it, but I found myself enjoying the hell out of that too. The past was good, the present is great, so imagine what the future has in store for Xexyz – I’m here for it.
I hope you enjoy Gamera.