Xenograft, Kettlespider, Bear the Mammoth – Split

Xenograft, Kettlespider, Bear the Mammoth

One of the most gratifying aspects of exploring music is to be able to see how different bands, styles, and scenes interact with each other. Like a massive, breathing network, no band is an island, and every city is its own musical melting pot. Today, my gaze shifts to the Australian city of Melbourne, home to a band called Kettlespider I had the pleasure of first hearing last year, with their debut album “Avadante”. With this recent split release, three of Melbourne’s instrumental bands have gotten together under the banner of Anon Islet Records to represent their particular niche of the city’s scene. While I already knew what to expect from Kettlespider, all three bands here bring their own impressive and distinct sound, proving that even a specific label like ‘instrumental progressive rock’ can lend itself to a ton of interpretation. Although the split could have done well without the superfluous ‘remix’ tracks at the end, there are no weak links on this split, and I think I can now consider myself a fan of two new bands.

Xenograft is by far the strangest thing this three-way has to offer. In contrast with the relative ambiance of Kettlespider and Bear the Mammoth, Xenograft is a frantic, jazz-infused metal attack. Math rock dissonance and playful saxophone licks run wild here, embracing the potential of jazz-metal fusion in a similar manner to the virtuosic German masters in Panzerballett. The second song is the work of Kettlespider, whose debut album “Avadante” had me impressed from the start. It wasn’t any surprise to hear more of the same excellence from them this around; while at first they conjure the atmosphere of Rush’s classic “Xanadu”, it builds into a rhythmic exercise that recalls Robert Fripp’s style, all the while making sure that the composition has a tight sense of melody to back it up. Although I was expecting something heavier from a band called Bear the Mammoth, the third track here is the most relaxed of the three by a wide margin, relying on the clever use of delay and shoegazey effects to get the atmosphere across. Otherwise simple guitar work is built up into a gorgeous, soaring sound that washes over the listener. Of the three band efforts, it’s difficult to pick a favourite. Xenograft earn the greatest points for musicianship, Kettlespider’s offering felt the most powerfully written, and Bear the Mammoth enjoyed the most engaging sense of atmosphere. An excellent sampler, really.

Had the split ended with those three songs, I would have had nothing but good things to say about the three-way. While the prospect of re-imagined electronic renditions of these songs was initially exciting, these remixes do very little for me. Xenograft’s mind melting jazz metal is reduced to a sputtering of off-time beats and glitchy electronic effects. Kettlespider’s music is turned into a deeply beat-oriented piece, part of which sounds experimental, another part sounds like it could be heard in a club. The remix of Bear the Mammoth’s tune isn’t an improvement over the original, but it fares the best of the three, retaining much of its original atmosphere and flair. To be fair, they’re each worth a listen if only to see the songs from a new perspective, but the idea of a remix here amounts to wasted potential moreso than anything.

Anon Islet Records have released an impressive collaboration here, and in spite of the slightly bitter taste the electronic reduxes leave after the playlist is finished, the originals make it well worth checking out. I can’t wait to hear more of what these three bands have to offer!


1. XENOGRAFT – Victimentia (5:42)
2. KETTLESPIDER – The Transcent (5:55)
3. BEAR THE MAMMOTH – Sea Caesar (5:43)

Total Time: 17:20

4. XENOGRAFT – Algebraic (Victimentia Glasfrosch Remix) (5:18)*
5. KETTLESPIDER – The Transcent (Dreyfus Remix) (3:26)*
6. BEAR THE MAMMOTH – Sea Caesar (FM Surgeon Remix) (5:22)*

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