Type: CD Company: Erthe and Axen Release: 2017 Genre: Black Reviewer: Greg Watson Published: 8/16/2017
A masterful piece of storytelling interwoven with epic music
California's Xanthochroid are something of a dying band form these days. Focusing on crafting both quality music and thoughtful lyrics, the band eschews the formula to churn out cookie-cutter sounding metal that lacks substance. The story that has been created by frontman Sam Meador is one that is not only well written but really helps you build a connection to the characters that star in the story and the songs. The story alone could take up a whole review but it's best to experience it yourself rather than have it explained through someone else's perspective.
With "Of Erthe and Axen: Act 1", Xanthochroid once again meld the phenomenal storytelling and musical pieces together in a wondrous and truly epic mixture. The first thing that struck me with this release was the somewhat more subdued quality of the music. On 2012's 'Blessed He With Boils', the band offered a blend of acoustical, choral pieces paired with thundering orchestral black metal. While this album follows that formula somewhat, the music on this album is more of the acoustic, choral blend with a few sprinklings of black metal throughout. But the album itself is still heavy in its content with the depth of the story and the actions that take place throughout the album. I felt that it was very classically influenced, with Baroque and Renaissance-era classical music being the main forms that really asserted themselves as the foundation for the musical base. The musicianship is top notch and each song is intricately crafted to mirror the storyline that plays out through each track. What you get with this release is a totally immersive experience that almost feels like a grandiose audiobook recording.
Musically, the band really captures the emotions that are only strengthened and enhanced by the phenomenal lyrical work of each song. The vocals, which feature male (Sam Meador), female (Ali Meador) and choral pieces, really do their part to convey the emotions in each song. The fact that Xanthochroid is able to create such beautifully rendered music while also creating tempestuous black metal is impressive in that the quality of the bm is equal to the more subdued and symphonic pieces in every way, shape and form. I also cannot stress enough how lyrically incredible Xanthochroid is. I find myself lost in the lyrics and whisked away to the world of Etymos. The sheer scope of what the band has laid in the groundwork for the world of Etymos is just staggering and the fact that they continually add to the happenings in this world is nothing short of amazing.
I've spent a few weeks with this album at this point and I am still finding things that I have missed on my subsequent listens each time I go back through the album. This is definitely one that is worth spending some time with and not one that you can simply breeze through and get a feel for. If you're looking for something that is truly different, well-thoughtout and written, you cannot go wrong with picking up "Of Erthe and Axen: Act 1" for yourself and losing yourself in the wonder and splendor of this incredible musical landscape.
About this Writer: Greg Watson // Greg Watson has been hooked on the loud and heavy sounds since the summer of 1994 when he first heard the opening notes of "Operation: Mindcrime" by Queensryche. Since then his tastes have expanded and grown like the ever evolving heavy metal tree of genres. He has been an active member of Maximum Metal off and on for 10 years. In his spare time, Greg enjoys deciding the fate of his loyal subjects in the realm of Skyrim and secretly playing air keyboard to "Separate Ways" by Journey when no one is watching. He currently resides in Roanoke, VA with his wife and his metal wannabe beagle.
Maximum Metal Rating Legend - Click for Full Details