It's fitting that The Dead Sea came out within one week of Halloween, not only because of the title of the release, but because of the musical content within. Thematically based on a doomed ocean voyage (that may or may not involve the undead), the newest album from Xela eschews his lighter, more pastoral sounds for something slightly darker and more haunting. Guitar work is still a prime element in the mix, but the listening this go around is much more uneasy than usual, dipping into everything from queasy atmospherics to distortion-heavy burnouts.
As one might guess from the above explanation, The Dead Sea sounds very much like a soundtrack to a dark, dark experimental film of some sort. There are nods to the semi-psychedelic work by Goblin for Argento films, and several evil, dense pieces that sound like something Wolf Eyes might do if they lightened up a bit. Opening track "The Gate" opens the release with a dense, wheezing drone as layers and layers of strings (some processed) all slide across one another in eerie ways while "Drunk On Salt Water" takes a slightly more playful mood, with a sort of sea-shanty lilt, with hand percussion leading some melodica, quiet guitar, harpsichord, and layers of noise on a drunken ramble.
"Creeping Fish" makes a break for more experimental territory, with what sounds like vintage electronic gurgles splattering out over the top of one another in a race to the bottom of the ocean. "Savage Ritual," meanwhile, finds a sort of dark folk piece blooming nicely alongside dense electronics and noise. It arrives about halfway through the release and with more of a defined song structure is easily the best track on the album.
Unfortunately, The Dead Sea loses focus from there out and drops off into what is track after track of moody, but much less interesting soundscapes. "Humid At Dusk" rattles some clanking noises around a low end hum and dry guitar before turning into a squall of feedback, while the closer of "Briefly Seen/Never Going Home"makes up for a bit of the somewhat meandering release with some beautiful guitar work over more layers of hissy drones and some field recordings. Great in places, a smidge aimless in others, this eleven track, forty-three minute release (with great, creepy artwork by Matthew Woodson) is a spooky little trip to take.