For someone who considered Blessed He With Boils one of the most beautiful records released in this decade, the return to full length of Xanthochroid was undoubtedly a wonderful news that hid, however, also a thin thread of anxiety. In fact, the fear that these young and brilliant American musicians could have lost their inspiration in these long five years was something that hovered annoyingly long in my thoughts, swept away fortunately by the first notes of Of Erthe And Axen Act I, in which persists that same and unique melodic and symphonic vein. To talk about this new birth of Xanthochroid is essential to start from the bottom, not of the disc but of the notes of presentation: in fact, ours, in a postilla that at first I had also missed, recommend reviewers to evaluate the album as the actual first part of a work that will see its continuation in October, and, therefore, the fact that the sound may appear much less metal-oriented and more folk is motivated by an overall design that provides a significant strengthening of the sounds in Of Erthe And Axen Act II. All this is very important, because you would run the risk of crediting the band of a steering point of view stylistically that, however, will eventually be certified as such only after listening to the work of next release; having said that, it is clear that those bold progressions, which merged the fury of black metal with orchestrations of epic / cinematic, in Act I are reduced to the bone, leaving room for a folk component and acoustic level that, however, remains a chimera for almost anyone who tries to try. In fact, the songs that bring back in a more pronounced way to the sounds of Blessed He with Boils are a minority, essentially represented by To Higher Climes Where Few Might Stand, The Sound Which Has No Name, and partially, The Sound Of Hunger Rises, where you find intact that dramatic and melodic firepower that makes the Xanthochroid immediately recognizable by virtue of a peculiarity that can not be denied in any way; For the rest, Of Erthe And Axen Act I moves along the grooves of a folk always imbued with a palpable melancholy and driven by the interweaving of the beautiful voices of Sam Meador (also acoustic guitar and keyboards), his wife Ali (important news compared to the past) and Matthew Earl (drums and flute). That said, it seems that this album is of a lower level than the previous one, but it’s not like that: even in its most peaceful and wide-ranging version, the music of Xanthochroid maintains the same magic and, indeed, could even attract new and deserved support, proving in some ways less challenging to assimilate; what is certain and unchangeable is the compositional maturity reached by a band that moves to heights allowed only to a select few, going to outclass for inspiration even those who could be considered initially of the ideal points of reference as Wintersun. Of Erthe And Axen continues to tell the story of the events that take place in Etymos, a parallel world created by Meador and that in the remarkable booklet is illustrated in great detail, with a map: the story told in this case is a prequel to Blessed He With Boils, but these are details, although important, destined to remain in the background compared to the superlative musical aspect.
Today’s line-up, reduced to four elements (together with the three, there is also Brent Vallefuoco, who takes care of the electric guitar parts, filling the album with magnificent solos) is a perfect blend of talent and creativity that finds its outlet both in the already mentioned more robust episodes, and in the acoustic pearls represented by To Lost And Ancient Gardens, In Deep And Wooded Forests Of My Youth (for which a beautiful video was shot by Vallefuoco himself) and the amazing The Sound Of A Glinting Blade, which lives of an emotional and vocal crescendo destined to flow into the furious symphonic incipit of the final The Sound Which Has No Name, creating one of the most impressive passages of the work. If at first listen the apparent tranquility that pervades the sound could have left a minimum of perplexity, the repetition of the steps in the player widely confirms that the value of Xanthochroid has not gone at all dispersed, indeed: Of Erthe And Axen Act I is different from its predecessor, but it is still another masterpiece released by this band of a level so much higher than average to make even irritating the fact that has not yet reached the deserved worldwide success. In this regard, it is to be hoped that the close release of the two parts of Of Erthe And Axen may allow to keep alive for longer the attention on Xanthochroid, remedying this obvious distortion.
2017 – Erthe and Axen Records