Xystus- Equilibrio

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Friday, January 16, 2009

Quite a few bands have tried to write rock operas in the past, but not all of them have managed to have a whole stage show performed from their score. This is exactly what happened to Netherlands based Xystus, who after releasing two albums of symphonic power metal decided that they wanted to create a rock opera. Enlisting the help of a full orchestra and Simone Simons from Epica, the group wrote Equilibrio and when the opera opened in the Netherlands it attracted a large audience. While a DVD of the show is still in the works, US label Sensory Records has released the musical version of the show so that listeners who don’t live in the Netherlands can find out what it is all about. Xystus has definitely accomplished something big, but whether you will like it or not will depend on whether you approach this release as a theater soundtrack or as a full length album from a power metal band.

I could mention what the story and themes behind Equilibrio are, but I feel as though this would spoil the joy of discovering it for yourself as you listen to the disc. What I will say though is that if you have always enjoyed the fantasy themes and imagery that most power metal brings to mind, Xystus’ rock opera is a must have as it takes these ideas and takes them to a higher level. Thankfully Sensory has included the entire play, complete with act and scene divisions intact, in the album booklet so that listeners can follow along and really get a feel for the production. The performers of Equilibrio all have great voices, and though Simone Simons definitely steals the spotlight on certain songs the other singers are noteworthy as well. It must have been quite an undertaking for each vocalist to not only get all of these lyrics down, but to perform them in a way that fit perfectly with the backing instrumentals so this definitely makes the singing even more impressive.

Due to the fact that Xystus were able to secure a full orchestra, it makes sense that the majority of Equilibrio has been written to put the focus on the orchestra while occasionally letting the instrumentalists in the band add in some slightly heavier styles. The best way to describe this sound is as a clash between traditional power metal and an orchestral/classical score, which despite sounding like a bit of a strange combination works wonderfully. Though the members of Xystus don’t actually perform that often, when they do they showcase that they are solid power metal players. However, the fact that they don’t actually play that much isn’t that big of a deal considering that what Equilibrio really does is showcase that these guys are talented enough to write an entire rock opera and pull it off.

Listeners who approach Equilibrio as another full length from a long running power metal act will likely come away disappointed due to the fact that actual power metal styles aren’t nearly as prominent as the orchestral/classical elements are. But those who approach this as the soundtrack to a theater release will be more likely to appreciate it, as from a rock opera/stage show perspective the music on this disc definitely succeeds. Hopefully the upcoming DVD release of the show will also see North American release as well, as it will be interesting to see what the actual stage show looks like.

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