It was the summer of 1997 and I was preparing to begin an unsuccessful few years at college. Two albums came out in the months prior from long established bands that shook their fan bases and caused considerable consternation: Tiamat’s A Deeper Kind of Slumber and Xysma’s Lotto. As a longtime fan, I picked up the Tiamat record without really knowing much about it and ended up loving it but Xysma was a band I had little to no familiarity with, though by the end of the summer that would change.
Lotto was one of those records that had massive marketing support, I mean the ads for this fucking record were everywhere, Relapse had to have spent a quarter of its Exit 13 money shilling this fucking thing. It was spoken about as a massive shift in direction and the comparisons to the Cult and Danzig were enough to grab my attention since I grew up on both. But you could even see the band in the myriad of interviews try to distance themselves from even those comparisons, talking more about Elvis and pop music of the ’50s and ’60s and artfully dodging questions about their death metal roots. There was just something about the whole thing that made me excessively curious about Lotto, especially since I had no preconceptions about the band. I mean, if Convulse could shift as much as they did and be (for me, anyway) better than their early form then why not give Xysma a try? Wasn’t I initially wrong about Amorphis’ Elegy?
Lotto really isn’t a surprising record if you look at it through the lenses of what was going on in Finland in the mid-late-’90s. Bands like the aforementioned Convulse and Amorphis were embracing more rocking psychedelia to their sound and you started seeing all kinds of oddities like Paroxism and Pakeni bubble to the surface. Even underground stalwarts Belial went through a serious paradigm shift from Gods of the Pit to Never Again to the highly disparaged III. Death metal was going through its awkward teen years trying to find itself beyond the framework that the late-’80s had created, to obviously varying degrees of success. Finnish death metal was no different, but certainly weirder.
I ended up fucking loving the record, which took me on a trip backwards into their discography, starting with Deluxe and “The “Witch” 7-inch and eventually ending with a drive down the Pacific Coast Highway listening to a CDR of their first demo, 1989’s Swarming of the Maggots, years later. And there’s still a lot of that formative Yeah feeling to Lotto if you listen carefully, especially in “Shortest Route” and “Bravado.” Sure, the vocals are different, and it’s framed in more of a garage rock sheen, but the substance and style are still there. What isn’t there is all the Danzig and The Cult that I kept hearing it compared to, except for maybe a bit of Ian Astbury in the vocals. You know what I do hear that I never saw it compared to? The Melvins. Lotto is absolutely a record for those of you who worship at the altar of early Sub Pop and the Nuggets compilations.
Lotto kind of landed with a thud as far as I could tell, at least here in the States, but those of us who got it ended up loving it. Their final record, 1998’s Girl on the Beach, strays even further away from anything remotely metal or punk, but it’s worth a listen (or three) because everything this band touched seem to produce quality, regardless of the genre they dipped into. I just wish their old label was still selling the Lotto longsleeves on eBay for $0.01 — that was one of my favorite hauls ever.
Xysma reunited 10 years ago and occasionally did shows here or there but now, in the year of our lord 2022, they’re going to release a new record. Will it be a return to their older style a la Convulse or Celestial Season or will they tread new ground as they did so often in the past? All I know is it’s made me revisit their work and it feels like sitting down with an old friend. I don’t think they’re going to do anything to change that.