Ah, here we have another outfit from Varese in Italy. It looks like this spot in the state of Lombardy hosts a wealth of metal bands. The styles seem to range from total extremes to the folksier realms of the metal multiverse. So, once good ol’ RMR heads South again, a stop will now definitely be in order to visit with people. So we can have it all, from the folk people to the devil’s lore.
Aexylium already appeared on these pages with their former full-length Tales from this Land. Now, whilst their earlier piece went blatantly pirate metal, their new album The Fifth Season is way more anchored in the Folk Metal realm.
But joking apart, it would be way too easy to just brush Aexylium aside as just yet another Folk Metal band in a sea of much of the same muchness. Because the outcome of the record is a pretty pig-headed piece of the traditional death-infused Folk Metal brand. One that takes the term ‘folk’ more seriously than others. Case in point, the Irish tune An Damhsa Mór reaches your earphones in an unplugged and pretty acoustic form.
Yet again, the band sports a huge lineup that may not necessarily play in their favor.2) In other words, their credo to let The Fifth Season be – and I quote – “…the result of different approaches toward music, and different interests between the members of the band…” resulted in a slightly messy tracklist. This made us miss that ‘fil-rouge’, a sturdy theme that should provide structure and context.
Opportunistic songwriting with the inclusion of ‘hey, hey’ shouts in the middle of some of the tracks won’t help matters either. Egging on the crowd during concerts is important, but in the middle of a formal record, they have no reason to exist. Better leave this to the arranger for live shows and their often much lengthier versions of tracks.
But let’s not dwell too much on those negatives. Because – suddenly – their new guest singer – Arianna Bellinaso – appears on the set with her delicious Tarja-esque soprano. Much to my dismay, she only saw action on Mountains and The Fifth Season (the title track). And once that happened, the sun started to shine on this land that the band currently dwells on.
The aforementioned gothically-tainted track Mountains truly is tailor-made for Bellinaso, and it’s also one of the strongest on the record. But it sails dangerously close to the fields Eluveitie like to till which made us wince just a little. All of that notwithstanding, the inclusion of a female vocalist made a world of difference, short as it may be. And the band obviously knew that, judging by the photos they issued with their female guest.
The Fifth Season contains more of these little gems, of course. The Bridge – for instance – is one of them with its caustic, yet pretty snazzy Death Metal tone. Or Immortal Blood with its subtle groove slam in the middle. Battle of Tettenhall with its in-yer-face violin duet would also sit well on the latest piece of Felled. We also appreciated the way Aexylium leaned into the pagan field in Yggdrasil. And the RMR deckhands got a kick out of the calls for Odin’s good graces somewhere in the middle of the track.
Ultimately, The Fifth Season delivers a sturdy and – indeed – varied new piece. One that sports a much surer stance compared to its predecessor with a new swagger that we quite enjoyed. The record is not perfect for sure, but boy did the band put the pedal to the metal this time, loudly and proudly. And if colorful contrasts in a Folk Metal record is your fancy, then you definitely need to give this one a good spin. You won’t be disappointed.