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Ixion : Return

Ixion go into the blue and out of the black for this soaringly atmospheric release.

Ixion 'Return'. That is such a brilliant title, redolent on so many levels of what this album is all about - and, coincidentally, also a beautifully evocative publicity statement without any need for further embellishment.

What am I talking about, you may (with some justification, if you haven't yet heard the latest release by the Brittany-based band) be asking? Well, quite simply, it's this: the last time we heard from Ixion was 2015's fully conceptual 'Enfant De La Nuit' - a sublime journey across the vast cold spaces of the universe - while 'Return' takes a complete loop around those distant suns, diving back into the blue embrace of Planet Earth and Mother Ocean. A sequel that trips into inner, rather than outer, space, executed with all the skill you'd expect from founder and main man Julien Prat and long-time vocal collaborator Yannick Dilly.

Once again presented by Finisterian Dead End in a neat, informative and artistically-photographed digipack (with a limited-edition package option that includes a 10th-anniversary remaster of the demo 'Through The Space We Die'): if physical releases are your thing, this one is definitely nice to have. Though you might well, if browsing the webstore page, immediately take notice of the description: "Atmospheric Metal at its best!!". I gather from Julien that there was some debate over whether or not to include 'Doom' in that tag. It's borderline, but - in my opinion - they made the right call.

Not that there's too much of a discontinuity, in fact: 'Return' is still recognisably Ixion, but it's focused more around the warmer, soaring, melodic themes that have always formed part of their core sound. You'll certainly find traces of the Doom side of their equation in the dialled-back heavier guitar parts and the sporadic use of growled vocals; however, the synth/piano work, bright guitar leads and the largely-clean vocal interplays are the main drivers here. If you like, it's simply extending the evolutionary arc that led from 'To The Void' to 'Enfant...', and the result is that the funereal Death/Doom of previous releases takes something of a sideline to the main oeuvre.

Musically, it's very much a blend of the old and the new, mixing synth work reminiscent of '70s and '80s pioneers like Tomita, Jarre, Schulze and Vangelis with elements of post-millennial melodic/prog-based Metal such as Dark Suns, and latterday Amorphis and Ayreon. I wouldn't be at all surprprised to see mentions of Anathema's 'Eternity' made - though I personally think it would be more accurate to say both bands took separate inspiration from similar roots. To an extent, I'm also reminded of the Metal-influenced Prog of the mid-'80s, and how newer bands of the time like IQ and Twelfth Night and older hands like Eloy pioneered that, though I am aware those are also not direct influences for Ixion. Regardless, that's the sort of tapestry being woven here. By turns melancholic, romantic, optimistic and inspiring, it's an entirely appropriate soundscape to frame a concept perhaps best expressed in the opening track:
"Leave behind the empty night/Turn your eyes to Her blue light".

It almost goes without saying, but the attention to detail, the breathtakingly effective compositions, and the lush, enveloping sound are also pure Ixion. Just as on previous outings, there's certainly no faulting their craftsmanship. As for the content - well, this may have ventured out of the void and into the sunlight, but it's done so in a way that stays very true to the preceding albums, and with a palette that certainly doesn't preclude bringing back more of a Doom vibe in future. Honestly, though, I wouldn't mind at all whether this trajectory continues into the blue or back to the black, if it continues to produce albums as good as 'Return'. Greatly recommended, whatever tag you want to attach to it.

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Reviewer's rating: 9/10


Tracklist :
1. Out Of The Dark
2. Into Her Light
3. Hanging In The Sky
4. Back Home
5. The Ocean
6. Contact
7. World Of Silence
8. Stranger
9. The Dive (Fade To Blue Part 2)

Duration : Approx. 44 minutes

Visit the Ixion bandpage.

Reviewed on 2017-12-18 by Mike Liassides
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