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Aexylium – The Fifth Season Award winner

Aexylium
The Fifth Season
by Gary Hernandez at 05 December 2021, 1:03 AM

I can’t remember how many times I’ve said that I dislike Folk Metal and that wind instruments have no place in Metal . . . and then have had to eat those words because some band like AEXYLIUM comes along and makes a liar out of me. AEXYLIUM formed in 2014. They’re a Symphonic Folk Metal octet out of Vareses, Italy. They have two full-length albums to their credit; the latest, “The Fifth Season,” was released on October 29, 2021, on Rockshot Records. The album marks a distinct evolution from the band’s previous releases (one EP and one full-length) and features several guest vocals: Samuele Faulisi (ATLAS PAIN), Arianna Bellinaso, and the members of Coro Facoltà di Musicologia Vocal Ensemble. Oh, and it’s great.

“The Fifth Season” includes 11 tracks and has a runtime of just over 51 minutes. Yeah, so dollar to db, a nice deal. There are no interlude fillers or Prog explorations to eat up time. All the tracks are fairly tight, allowing just enough space for each movement to fully develop, the overall arc to resolve, and for several of the musicians to step into solo spotlights. Tracks like “The Bridge” and “Mountains,” for instance, have flute, violin, plus guitar solos not to mention extended synth flourishes and even some showcase opps for bass and drums.

Thematically, it’s mostly bright fantasy, mythology, and epic folk—I say “bright” because of the inspiring and uplifting vibe to the tracks, but there are moments of darkness and plenty of heavy riffs. AEXYLIUM has done Folk Metal covers of the theme songs from The Game of Thrones and Vikings and while “The Fifth Season” may or my not reference N.K. Jemisin’s “The Fifth Season,” the heralding of the end of an epoch is there. The cover art by Jan Yrlund of Darkgrove Design (MANOWAR, TESTAMENT, KORPIKLAANI) mirrors this theme, depicting a lone tree with sprouts of a new bloom on great but bedraggled limbs standing in the foreground. In the background is a devastated modern city. The skies are shifting from storm laden to brilliant sun tinged with hints of fire and blood; the ground is waxing from barren to a hopeful growth. Fifth season indeed.

With 11 tracks, I thought there would be at least one clunker. I was pleasantly surprised that there were none. This is a very listenable album, as in you won’t want to miss any of the tracks and you’re more likely to play it straight through on every listen rather than skip around. Even the two instrumentals, “On the Cliff’s Edge” and “An Damhsa Mór” bear repeating. And yes, “An Damhsa Mór,” the ubiquitous folk-dance song that somehow exists in every culture. “An Damhsa Mór” is to folk dance as pyramids are to stacking up bricks, but in the hands of AEXYLIUM it’s a near masterpiece.

I like AEXYLIUM best when they lean to the heavy side and explore variations of a theme; I like them the least when they lean to the shanty lilts that define Pirate Metal. I prefer their female soprano vocals to their male guttural but recognize the paradoxical harmony when they perform in tandem. I was put off by the number of band members. Eight musicians plus guests rival a LYNYRD SKYNRD reunion and it’s a lot of ways to split a royalty check, but I will say I enjoyed the performance of every single member and wouldn’t omit any from the mix. Which leads me to final observation of this album: Great studio engineering. Kudos to Twilight Studio.

The only downside to AEXYLIUM’s “The Fifth Season” is that it will compel you to go back and get their first album, “Tales from this Land.” And if are a completionist like me, you’ll need to get their EP, “The Blind Crow.” On the upside, hey, congrats—you just discovered an incredible band near ground floor. Also, they are actively hitting the stage, so you may be able to catch them at a gig or festival if, of course, the real fifth season doesn’t wipe out the planet beforehand.

Songwriting: 9
Musicianship: 10
Memorability:  9
Production: 10

5 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1.  The Bridge
2.  Mountains
3.  Immortal Blood
4.  Battle of Tettenhall
5.  Skål
6.  An Damhsa Mór
7.  Yggdrasil
8.  Vinland
9.  The Fifth Season
10.  Spirit of the North
11.  On the Cliff’s Edge
Lineup:
Gabriele Cacocciola – Bass
Matteo Morisi – Drums
Fabio Buzzago – Guitars, choirs
Steven Merani – Vocals
Stefano Colombo – Keyboards, choirs, orchestrations
Federico Bonoldi – Violin
Leandro Pessina – Flute, mandolin, bouzouki
Andrea Prencisvalle – Guitars
Record Label: Rockshot Records
     


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Edited 25 January 2022
 

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