(Clan of) XYMOX - Metamorphosis 1992 - 2001 (Biography Part 4/5)

logo_coxWith the final split of the original band ending a major dream, Ronny Moorings continued, on his own, working on a new album in London under the name XYMOX (hier zum deutschen Text).

With the PolyGram years over, in 1992 Ronny released the album "Metamorphosis" under his own label X-ULT. Written in collaboration with Richard Wells (mixing, engineer), the album title, "Metamorphosis", was emblematic of a change in sound: the former Wave band had now become a Rave-/Techno-Act. Ronny started using more and more loops, techno sounds and frenetic dance rhythms, revealing the influences of bands like The Shamen and The Beloved. Only in the song "Tightrope Walker" was there a glimmer of XYMOX's former melancholia, in trying to combine dance with Cure-like guitars and a dreamy melody. One of the highlights was the single "Dream On", a simple (almost shallow) rave-pop song oozing superficial jubilance with wah-wah guitars, House piano and haunting female backing vocals. This new 'positivism' in XYMOX's music was relatively well received by the press [1] yet, since XYMOX had always been perceived as an archetypal 4AD band, this metamorphosis also caused complications. Overall, this album received little attention and probably gained even fewer friends.

ronny1A year later, the next album, "Headclouds", was released. Since Ronny's own label X-ULT was experiencing licensing problems, Ronny moved to Zok Records. This label had been newly founded and, besides Chapman Stick player Jim Lampi, had no other artists under contract except XYMOX. The head of the Zok label was nevertheless thinking big in all respects. He booked the best studios and XYMOX started recording the album. The first single taken from the album, "Reaching Out", released in 1993, apparently sold 5000 copies within a few weeks and scratched on the UK Top 40. [2] Zok could literally smell the success, and building a ten person team around Zok Records, moved office into the building of legendary Britannia Row Studios (Pink Floyd, Joy Division, The Verve). Changing distribution from Caroline to Polydor, he hoped to increase the chances of the single's success, and Polydor advised the single to be taken off the market to be published more successfully at a later stage. [2] However, Zok's grandiose plan failed because "Reaching Out" and "Headclouds" were subsequently dropped from Polydor's release schedule in favour of the label's own bands.

"Headclouds" remains probably the most underrated XYMOX album. Unlike the previous album "Metamorphosis", not all bridges of the past were burned; some hypnotic electronic beats, haunting soundscapes with choral sounds, flickering sequencers and Ronny's typically mournful singing remained. Atmospheric trance-like instrumental songs alternated with Rave ("Reaching Out"), Wave pop ("Headclouds") and Ambient ("January"). Especially the wave dance song "A Single Day" (with percussion by Julian Beeston, ex-Nitzer Ebb), and the cover of Bowie's "Wild Is the Wind", showed possibilities of musical development without abandoning all of XYMOX's roots.

The next single, "Spiritual High" (with B-side, "Wild Is the Wind") was expected to be a success, but turned out to not be as profitable as "Reaching Out". This scuppered the flamboyant plans of Zok Records: creditors demanded their money back, and the Zok label collapsed.

xymoxheadclouds3Ronny and his girlfriend, Mojca, left London and moved back to the Netherlands. XYMOX had tried to bring new direction to their music, but failed; not only because of the altered quality of their new material, but in particular because they were unable to bring old fans with them, or generate new ones. The poor performance of the labels and management involved didn't help either (Zok Records provided no promotion outside the UK, using Schlager music label Koch as distributer in Germany, etc.). In 1994 Zok published a "remix" album, without the consent of the band, condensing the albums "Metamorphosis" and "Headclouds" (and which, contrary to the title, contained no real remixes). More interestingly, in that same year, the EP "Subsequent Pleasures" was released on CD by Pseudonym, supplemented by demos that had brought XYMOX their 4AD deal.

In 1994 XYMOX did a short tour through the Netherlands supporting the "Headclouds" album. In addition to his new girlfriend Mojca (keys), Ronny managed to convince Frank Weyzig (guitar, keys) and Wim Anvers (drums) to come back to XYMOX. These small concerts were 'intimate' - to put it politely - with usually not more than an audience of 100 people. XYMOX mostly performed songs from the last three albums ("Phoenix", "Metamorphosis," and "Headclouds"); the only 'old' songs were "Obsession" and "Stranger", the latter in its very technoid version of the "Phoenix" tour.

XYMOX - This World (is made for you and I), live@Batcave, Tilburg/NL, 07.10.1994, Headclouds Tour

Two new songs were presented for the first time on the tour: "This World (is made for you and I)" and "The Same Dream". The songs sounded promising, hinting that Ronny had finally found the right mix of dance sounds and electrical wave he had had been experimenting with on "Headclouds". Dance beats, techno sounds and a typical XYMOX wave atmosphere were fused in "This World (is made for you and I)" and "The Same Dream" turning them into modern electro-pop songs. Unfortunately these songs were not released on a new album, and were instead used as instrumentals for the soundtrack written by Ronny for the "Total Mayhem" Dormark computer game.

XYMOX - Stranger, live@Batcave, Tilburg/NL, 07.10.1994, Headclouds Tour

After the tour XYMOX disappeared from the scene for two years. Ronny and Mojca used the time to regain their roots musically, coming back spectacularly in 1997 [3] as reports trickled out of a comeback of Clan of XYMOX (but not the original cast). Ronny had signed a recording contract for a single and an album with Tess Records, a label trying to mirror early 4AD's sound and aesthetics. The reuse of the "Clan of" symbolised a break with the pop, dance and techno experiments of recent years under the name XYMOX, and a return to the old Wave and 4AD sound.


The single "Out of the Rain", produced by Dave Allen (i.a. The Cure, The Sisters of Mercy) sounded like a mix of classic gothic rock (the chorus reminds a little of "No Time to Cry" by The Sisters of Mercy) and Placebo. The album "Hidden Faces" was produced mainly by John A. Rivers (i.a. Dead Can Dance) who had already worked with the band on the "Blind Hearts" single, and became a nice, not radically nostalgic Wave album. Despite the musical return, the new sound did leave room for pop and dance influences ("Your Vice", "The Child in Me"). Apart from this, industrial music influences woven into the music ("Hypocrite," "Going Round 97" or "Not for the Money") introduced a sound unusually harsh for Clan of XYMOX.

Finally the song, "This World (is made for you and I)", from the "Headclouds" tour, was included for album release on "Hidden Faces" (and shortened to "This World"). However, the new recordings hadn't done the song much good; where the '94 version been carried out as a positive song, now all dance electro elements were eradicated by raucous Wave rock guitars over a metronome-like, non-groovy beat. Also the lyrics were rewritten to express a pessimistic world view. The song had been used as a guinea pig in a XYMOX experiment gone wrong. Shame. After the release of the album, Clan of XYMOX went on tour in the fall of 1997, presenting a kind of 'best-of' selection of songs from their acclaimed 4AD albums as well as new material.

promo97_1The fate of "This World" was representative of Clan of XYMOX's continued musical reformation, because the next album, "Creatures" (Pandaimonium Records, 1999), marked the final break with all past influences outside its scene: here was an album made by a Dark Wave/Goth band specifically for the Goth scene. "Creatures" can almost be considered as the reference album for the Goth genre. This overriding scene-fixation made itself even more noticeable on the band's following albums, being reinforced by Ronny writing all songs alone, without corrective external influences. He also wrote the music on "Notes From The Underground", while his girlfriend Mojca produced the clichéd album covers on her PC. And so, much of the magic of the old days was lost. Having once set the standard in minor-chord-loving melancholia, we can only wonder at what happened. Disappointed by a overruling mediocrity (of the artwork, the songwriting, sound, aesthetics, etc.), I lost interest in the band and therefore this biography ends here.

Still, the willing Goth scene punter is advised to give the Clan of Xymox albums a listen anyway; these likely contain a couple of nice songs which are still sufficient to qualify as a highlight of the mundane Gothic scene. The next opportunity is the end of May 2011, when the new album "The Darkest Hour" (Trisol Records) will be released.

part 1: Subsequent Pleasures (1983 - 1985)
part 2: Medusa (1986-1987)
part 3: Imagination (1988 - 1991)
part 5: Vaselyn, Hypercycle, Born for Bliss (Post-XYMOX)

[1] Peter Parhidas: "Metamorphosis" - Melody Maker 14, 1992
[2] Ronny Moorings: The Xymox-Story - in: Gothic II, 2002, ISBN 3896023969
[3] Dennis Wollnik: Clan of Xymox - Orkus, 06/1997

unruhr-Interview Ronny Moorings 2004
unruhr-Interview Anka 2005
unruhr-Interview Pieter Nooten 2006
unruhr-Interview Pieter Nooten 2010
unruhr-Interview Bert Barten 2010
unruhr-Tongrube: XYMOX - Blind Hearts