Xystus - Equilibrio
Sensory Records
Symphonic Musical with Metal Elements
12 songs (57'29")
Release year: 2008
, Sensory Records
Reviewed by Alex
Surprise of the month

I truly owe it to my daughter for understanding and, subsequently, a favorable review of Xystus. Searching for something Equilibrio is not, a form of more streamlined symphonic metal, I skimmed through the album, failed to get excited, but somehow it was left riding in my car player. Fortunately, it got to play on one of our numerous recent trips together, so my kid, an excitable artsy creature, fond of theater and art performances, said that she really liked it and asked me to read about this “play” more. And then it hit me. All this while I have been looking at Xystus as some atmospheric power metal band who have tried their hand at the symphonic aspect of metal, trying to emulate, and failing to achieve, the density of Kamelot or their countrymates Epica. We looked at the booklet together, and I tried to explain my offspring this tale of mystical, mythological and medieval. For her the story may be a tad too philosophical and over her head, but it really made me consider Equilibrio in a totally new light.

It is no doubt that this rock opera is a symphonic adventure, utilizing 130 people involved in the production and a full size orchestra. Listening to Overture, and throughout the opus for that matter, you can’t shake off an impression of how far metal has reached, but if, like me, you are waiting for the heavy riffing to slam home the Wagnerian sense of tragedy (Last Breath), it will not come. In this regard the first visible guitar sighting does not even appear until the third track on the album, The Traveller, and even there it is dimmed by the wind section. Once you get over the fact that there won’t be overt metal features on Equilibrio and learn to appreciate it from the angle of a Broadway musical, you will get impressed by its pomp, massiveness, vast amount of orchestration and overwhelming production. The latter, no matter how much I will play it up, will continue to be underappreciated.

As in any good rock opera, the roles are clearly assigned and performed by some prominent names in Dutch music establishment. Simone Simons’ (Epica) beautiful soprano overshadows the music in My Song of Creation, and elevates Bas Dolman (“Diegu”) in their duet on Destiny Unveiled. Alone, Bas, a regular Xystus member, sounds like a less ballsy version of Johnny Gioeli or Joe Lynn Turner. The dialogues between “Aveline” Michelle Splietelhof and “Primos” John Vooijs are some of the best moments of the opera as both vocalists are utmost professionals. Their confrontation in Divided We Stand with the double bass gallop is one of the album’s most metal moments, while the reconciliation in Balanced Restored is the most poignant, two actors/vocalists “caressing” each other with their voices. George Oosthoek (Orphanage) is given perhaps the opera’s most rudimentary, least explained, role, that of “Death”, and he sounds like a beast without a bite, extreme vocals sounding out of place on Equilibrio (but not too much to scare an uninitiated listener).

Trying to explain Xystus in any more detail is thankless, will not reach its goal and will spoil the story. Suffice it to say, the band really throws everything they got and the proverbial kitchen sink at the listener. Major props have to go out to Sensory, for this must have been the biggest production they ever encountered. If you liked Nikolo Kotzev’s Nostradamus more than Avantasia or Judas Priest offering their vision of the 16th century French prophet, Equilibrio will be right up your alley. The feelings of a child can’t lie, and once I was able to rise above my single-mindedness I appreciated this statement’s axiom.

Killing Songs :
If you like it, you will really like it
Alex quoted 83 / 100
Other albums by Xystus that we have reviewed:
Xystus - Receiving Tomorrow reviewed by Ian and quoted 81 / 100
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