FAKSM #22: When America Gets It Right

So, metal. America sucks at it.

Yes, I said it. Honestly, I've never been too keen on any American metal bands. They have had a lot of influence, and several of their "scenes" have been at the forefront of mainstream consciousness (hello Metallica, hello Limp Bizkit, hello Trivium), yet artistically I've honestly never found any American metal band who grabbed me by the balls and ran me through the rinser for more than one album.

I'll run through some. Thrash Metal, innovated by British legends Venom, found its niche in the Bay Area scene, boasting such "luminaries" as Metallica, Exodus, Possessed and Testament. Yet these, and the subsequent extra bands that make up the "big four", Megadeth, Slayer and Anthrax, never reached the heights of musical quality that their rather more interesting German counterparts managed. Granted, Slayer's Reign in Blood was good, as was Metallica's Ride The Lightning. But after that American thrash went downhill in a big way and yet Sodom and Kreator are still making thrash albums that are thrash and not shit. Hell, I even preferred Bathory's two thrash albums in the mid-90s to most American thrash.

Death Metal tells a similar tale. I cannot stand Obituary or Morbid Angel. Oddly, Death and Atheist actually turned out pretty good, but even so musically I find American death metal lags severely behind the superior Polish scene, as well as some of the less-sucky Swedish death metal (Opeth stand out) and most Finnish death metal.

The biggest offender though, is black metal. There has not been a single amazing American Black Metal band. People used to tell me to listen to a band they described as the "American Burzum", a one-man project called Xasthur. Would that I hadn't. It is quite honestly the least interesting metal I've ever heard. Here, try some. I also heard good things about Wolves in the Throne Room, but that just left me bewildered that anyone would release it. On the more melodic side you have Abigail Williams, who sound basically like Cradle of Filth meeting Dragonforce in a bar fight; Eyes of Noctum, the band of Nicolas Cage's son, which is a Dimmu Borgir clone but even worse; and Dragonlord, which is Testament moonlighting as a black metal band. To be fair, they do a better job at it than any other American black metal band I've heard except one, a band called Veneficum whose first album was actually interesting. Then there was a 7 year wait until their second album, which was rather less amazing.

However, the dearth of good metal from America now seems to be over, broken by none less than a progressive black metal band. Unfortunately they're not stylistically similar to Enslaved, but they most certainly rule. Their name is Xanthochroid.

Stylistically, they remind me mostly of a mashup between Emperor and Opeth. They have shades of Opeth's gloriously deep and luscious melodies, and Emperor's musical "chill" that manages to make even beautiful passages of music sound grim and frostbitten. Then they add folk and epic orchestral passages and end up with possibly the most glorious self-released album ever.

I present to you, Blessed He With Boils.

[audio:|titles=Xanthochroid - Blessed He With Boils (2012) - 02 Blessed He With Boils]

Really, I didn't have much faith left in Black Metal in general. I know Henkka picked Anaal Nathrakh and God Seed albums for his top ten of 2012, but I'm finding it harder and harder to find black metal bands I can keep an interest in. However, Xanthochroid have hit all my buttons at once. Not only do they have the type of Black Metal I enjoy, they also have these lush bits that go for ages without any metal at all and still feel true to the spirit of the whole thing.

Then there's the lyrics. Now, I know concept albums are no new thing. Rock Operas too. But the amount of planning and detail that has gone into their "world" surpasses that of any real band I've ever seen (Roswell Six don't count, as they're basically a tie-in band to Kevin J. Anderson's Terra Incognita book series). Before I heard Xanthochroid, I thought I was the only one who wrote out detailed character sheets, ten page plot overviews and motivation lists for the entire story of an album before I even started most of the lyrics. But their exploration of the world of Etymos is an expanding and beautiful story, and I can't wait to hear more.

I honestly encourage everyone to go and listen to the whole album on their bandcamp, because it is an album that really should have got on my top albums of last year list, but as it was released like a week before the end of it I never heard it.

One last note is that when they ain't making damn good music, they're either pulling off amazing covers of pop songs or playing in the greatest joke band ever to have existed, Epic Dragon. They also have a damn fine sense of humour. You know, for Americans.


On the topic of FAKSMs though, seriously people, it's been nearly two years since someone that wasn't skald or I did one. Step it up!


  1. Finally listened to the track. Pretty cool stuff. The sprinkled in Opethiness is kinda tasty. I could see myself listening to this. Maybe. Will check 'em out, thanks.

    Hey, FAKSM's are serious business. :P

  2. Hey, I know they're srs bsns. It's been a lot of months since I last did one anyway. I just went through and saw and thought, hey, has it really been two years? :P

    But yea, I'm so glad I found a progressive Black Metal band I liked. Le Grand Guignol was getting old anyway :P And A Forest Of Stars suck ass.