After turning some heads with their debut LP Our Home Is a Deathbed, Louisville hardcore act Xerxes did what most bands do – they toured their asses off. However, after seemingly taking some time away from things, the band has come back with a new release, a two-track EP called Would You Understand? A new track called “Tramadol” emerged with pre-orders, and it’s safe to say that this isn’t the same band. At least not entirely. Though there are hints of abrasion in this track, it is laced with a slower pace and alt-punk tendencies of raspy spoken words to counter the bombastic splints of aggression that the track holds.
While it is a bit jarring to hear Xerxes take a step back and really churn out some nostalgic influences in the mix of their sound, the progression sounds quite natural and well-executed. I’m hesitant to say there’s hints of particular bands on the track, but regardless, there is a reasonable cloud of alt-rock on this tune, whether it be in the vocals or the somber, deliberate tone of the entire piece. In particular, the slithering guitars and a humming bass line counter the switching vocals of Calvin Philley in a way that is both catchy and adventurous.
If you enjoyed the Xerxes of somewhat old, you shouldn’t have much of a reason not to like this direction, but it’d be fair to say that stepping into a somewhat different realm musically will reap interesting rewards towards what Xerxes will be capable of on future releases. For what differences can be heard between this track and a good chunk of Our Home Is a Deathbed, Xerxes might just be better off for taking a leap of faith in trying to diversify their sound this time around.