Review Summary: A captivating adventure into the conceptual minds of our present day progressive/black metal ringleaders.
It’s not difficult to close our eyes and imagine a world beyond ourselves; beyond what we’ve accomplished in past instances. But to see these prospects take heed in an encapsulating black metal album is truly monumental. The almost endless discharge of stagnant black metal releases as of late is trying on the typical music enthusiast. We all enjoy solid outings that live up to past experiences but the need to find music that is fresh, original, well arranged, and downright inspirational is of utmost importance in our day and age. Without further ado, Xanthochroid’s Blessed He With Boils
is just that crutch, that furtherance, that we’ve all been looking for to instill a sense of hope that exemplarity can still be found in progressive/black metal excursions.
Drawing inspirational allotments from some of black metal’s most successful acts, Xanthochroid manages to successfully extract each illuminative-integral component as if the very proponents they behest were renditions from their own merits. From the synth/classical interludes akin to Nox Arcana and Midnight Syndicate on the opener “Aquatic Deathgate Existence”, to the extreme-blistering-pure black metal sequences compared to the likes of Emperor and Ihsahn on “Blessed He With Boils”, to the blissful melancholic clean vocals similar to Empyrium’s Weiland
on “Winter’s End”, to the folk/melodic dynamics of Wintersun’s self-titled LP on “The Leper’s Prospect”, to the audible bass underlay’s complementing the likes of Tool’s softer passages from Lateralus
on “Rebirth of an Old Nation”, Xanthochroid never fails to arouse the listeners taste buds into a frenzy of methodical contentments. In fact, whilst drawing inspirations from these bands Xanthochroid not only share similar traits they also execute them just as good whereas many other bands who try to cumulate different aspects don’t always live up to their sources. Clearly the unity of these Californians can be seen in video clips on YouTube where the band members can be seen joking around and having a good time amongst each other during the production phase and this not only shows in visual aspects but also on audible demeanors as there never seems to be a moment on Blessed He With Boils
where band members try to over shadow others. An obvious degree of respect and maturity shines forth through every track where each instrumental counterpart reserves itself just enough to allow each disseminated moment to reach its full impact. For instance, “Long Live our Lifeless King” is intrinsically an abundant track but there comes a point around the mid part where it seems the crescendos reach their azimuth. Fittingly, it effectively peels off all its layers, leaving an eerie, yet insightful, guitar clean-melody that is eventually joined with pulsating electronic percussions before the abundance returns.
Unanimously consistent, each band member adds a great deal of depth to Xanthochroid’s approach and sound. Keyboardist and lead singer, Sam Meador, compliments almost every moment with theatrical synths showcasing his classical and atmospheric skills on the opening track where his envisions of on upcoming cataclysm are brought to life. A strong mention on the skins goes to drummer/producer Matthew Earl whose techniques are immediately well above par. Matthew shows what he’s made of on the title track where there is never a dry or dull moment. His every ride hit, double bass combination, and fills always dance perfectly with the other members collaborations; giving the album that extra needed push at any given moment. Brent Vallefuoco and David Bodenhoefer handle the guitar department and competently consummate heavy guitar transitions and soft folk-like passages like virtuoso composers. Their ability emulate well known sounds and make them their own is truly superb. Although “The Leper’s Prospect” sounds like it could be a track off a Wintersun album they take the highlights of anything Jari could accomplish and take it even further by auspiciously blending it in the midst of other tracks that aren’t so Wintersun-like. Even the bassist Bryan Huizenga is highlighted throughout the album. Even during times of extreme-metal fury Bryan bass can be heard fully audibly. One of my favorite moments by Bryan has to be his simple, yet effective bass lines during the mid-clean section of the closing track. Again, as mentioned before, at that moment his lines are extremely Tool’ish which most people can’t argue against its effectiveness. As a whole each member’s collaborations are seemless and they succeed when you forget each counterpart’s existence. In fact each member ever lends their vocals towards the dreamy operatic sequences which takes many tracks to whole new levels, exuding a sense of passionate etherealness.
Dynamically, Blessed He With Boils
truly hits the mark. Each sequence or track holds its own merits, complementing the journey we experience where a self-conjured world displays the struggles of power between two antagonizing brothers. One brother rises to power through dishonest gain while the other brother makes efforts to dethrone the deceitful tyrant. In “The Leper’s Prospect”, being one of my favorite songs, the perspective of the lesser-hierarchised brother [Thanos] expresses his disdain in words of “I wander, forlorn, disfigured, so sore, aching from the weight I bore all those years”. The emotional classical/folk intro gives testament to his forlorn-weakened state. After moments the track erupts into an extreme metal frenzy, littered with beautiful symphonic compliments akin to Wintersun; assertively confirming Thanos’ outburst of affirmative aversion. Appropriately, near the end, “The Leper’s Prospect” drops all coatings into a symphonic/piano bridge as if Thanos himself broke out into a mournful weep; testified but the following illiterate scream. Closing out with one of the tastiest melodic riffs I’ve ever heard in transitional-assertive fashion, this track is the epitome effective composition. Another highlight, as many there are, is the closure “Rebirth of an Old Nation”. Littered with dynamics, vocal harmonies, and a mid-point clean section that rings of Tool’s softer passages off Lateralus, this all-important concluding piece shows the eventual resolve of Thanos as he notices his brother ‘crumbling face’ and ‘empty stare’ he at last says his final ‘good bye’. Choosing to find solace amongst his own means, Thanos leaves the oppressive atmosphere but not without a twist. The concluding verse says “It’s hard to walk in this thick mud and I begin to sink”. Whether this is metaphorical or literal it leaves the album open for a follow up to another that may continue the story lines entourage. However being that the tracks name is “Rebirth of an Old Nation” this could suggest that Thanos may travel afar to create his own dominion which could eventually rival his evil brother Ereptor. This is my interpretation of the story and I can't guarantee it's 100% accurate. Whatever the case may be we have a foundation to absorb and I’m sure Xanthochroid will wow us sometime in the future with a fantastic follow up.
Blessed with such an offering during our modern age, Blessed He With Boils
shows Xanthochroid actively working towards something new and fresh as this already is, whilst never forgetting what makes black metal so powerful in the first place. Wowing us with these theatrical concepts, I can only imagine what they’ll accomplish in years to come. Fans of modern melodic or symphonic black metal will most likely be knocked out of their seats with this outing. Keep your eyes and ears peeled for this exquisite driving force which is Xanthochroid.