Cinematic Metal. The dream of shaving off a tasty slice of Hollywood without being there. And – by definition – only in sound and never in deed. Clad in metal that somehow and apparently must sound epic and be smothered in sweetish cheese.
Bands like AfterTime or – again – Illuminata come to mind. And for a while, it is nice to listen to those compositions that all kinda sound alike. But then suddenly this deluge of fondue does get to you. And you start to yearn for something a bit rougher.
So, luckily we finally stumbled across the newest concoction Xaon released a few months back. In the form of their pretty sturdy and – well – epic video juicily called Eros, no less. But don’t get your hopes up, you lechers. Solipsis and its rather philosophical concepts do not all of a sudden give way to some sort of baroque erotic pleasures.
You see, already Xaon‘s latest album The Drift set the direction. But now they go full knock-out, on a crazily tilted mix located somewhere between Fleshgod Apocalypse and Silver Dust. To the point that they need to have a care. Or they will end up wearing gaudy headware and elaborate costumes with garish corpse paint that will rival the joker.
In other words, Solipsis continues, where its predecessor left off. But with an intensity that its former incarnation surely did not feature. As of the excellent Monolith, you get the aforementioned Cinematic Metal drift too. Xaon managed to go epic and lather everything with bombast without smearing cheese all over their album. And that’s a first brownie point.
Then, and whilst everything is somehow poured into a Death Metal foundation, they happily gallivant across any and all styles. And that’s what we love in a record. On top, Xaon gave Rob Carson enough room to let his pretty elastic voice roam freely. And this for clears and – surely – growls.
So, you get these instances of hot and cold, soft acoustics slammed against harsh metal. Metal that meanders from death to black to thrash and progressive without constraints, and then some. A bit like Eluveitie, but devoid of the latter’s mad piping. All of that embedded in subdued symphonics that will never attempt to take over and try to whack you over the head with an overdose of choirs and strings.
Solipsis is full of hooks, changes of tempi, and different rhythms. So much so, that I started to fear for my sanity after a while. Like them rollercoasters with those insane loops built-in. From 120 mph to almost zero in half a second, just to hit acoustic guitars with some slow-motion lyrics. As in the aforementioned Eros at 5:05. And done with a flow and flourish that gave me pause.
Speaking of which. I quite enjoyed how Xaon managed to let everything flow into each other. And all this is artfully done, in this kinda flawless fashion that speaks to the mix and master in a big and very positive way.
Yet still, Solipsis has a slight tendency to gripe. With this propensity to bludgeon the listener into submission with a gluttony of elements, samples, and ever different structural changes. I found it sometimes difficult to really concentrate and take the record in with the attention it deserves. As opposed to letting this deluge of soundwaves just wash all over you.
The record truly sails very close to this thin red line of total overload that it must not cross. In other words, delicious complexity can very quickly become a curse that already haunted a multitude of records of other artists. But luckily, Xaon stayed clear of those waters. For now.
And then, there’s this concern with the tracklist, however slight it may be. River really sounds like one of those fatalities. One that burps about the soundscape for no good reason. Culling that one would have made for a much crisper offering. Yet, the change into the next song – Mask – with its pretty shiny progressive airs is again faultlessly done. What can I say?
Ying and Yang. Hot and cold. Heavy and soft. This is what comes to mind when you really delve into Solipsis. I marveled at the band’s new-found swagger, up a few notches from before. Xaon morphed into a band now very sure of its capabilities. And it shows.
Despite the aforementioned shortcomings, this record is a delight to devour. Riffing and soloing, vocals of all kinds, drum work, all at high levels of musicianship. Plus an artful inclusion of acoustics, symphonics and a trifle Hollywood. All that presented on a platter that never collides with the metallic origins the band projects.
Holy Metal Cow, that piece of red-hot metallic aggression is just up our alley. And we already look forward to their next record.
Ed’s note: The record successfully made it onto the 2019 Top 10 records. Congrats!