The Lethean

In my ongoing quest to discover symphonic death metal of any sort here in 2022, I’ve stumbled across some awesome, obscure stuff this summer alone,  like Japan’s Imperial Circus Dead Decadence ( whose 殯――死へ耽る想いは戮辱すら喰らい、彼方の生を愛する為に命を讃える―― might be my album of the year- which was just going to be too much of a challenge to review/type), The Expedition, from Germany’s one-man project Daidalos,  America’s own The Xebellian Triangle and their quaint debut At the Banks of the Rubicon, and Swiss act Kerberos.

Switzerland’s Xaon has been the most recent discovery with their third album, The Lethean, released earlier this summer. The band appears to be the brainchild of one Frenchman, Rob Carson ( also of melodic death metal act Bloodstorm) who has surrounded himself with a group of various musicians from the Swiss scene (all new members for this album apparently) and delivered an fucking epic spectacle of melodic, symphonic death metal that needs to be heard.

At its heart, Xaon is progressive, epic, symphonic melodic death metal, with influences that appear to cull from Edge of Sanity, Germany’s Disillusion, as well as France’s Kalisia, as I hear a lot of Crimson, and both Back to Times of Splendor and Cybion, all certifiable classics in their own right. But Xaon has a lot more of a bombastic, orchestral, and movie score-styled symphonic, and it’s fucking glorious.

Of course, The Lethean is concept-based, and the album covers all the moods that tell the story and covers all the melodic death bases, but with everything turned to 11. It’s not bat shit insane like Imperial Circus Dead Decadence, but if Cybion and Back to Times of Splendor are your jam, this is for you, but with added grandiose bombast.

All 51 minutes of the gorgeously produced album are glorious, as the band is able to deliver a plethora of metal elements in a diverse and extreme, yet often catchy way. There are soaring, clean choruses (standout “Wayward Sun”, throttling opener “The Hunt”, “If I Had Wings”), bombastic, blast beats (“The Hunt”, circus-y “And Yet I Smile”), dramatic Dimmu Borgir-ish choral orchestration (“A Golden Silence”), and big beefy riffs (downright epic standout “Wanton”, “A Kiss of Winter”). Though realistically all the songs ( except a couple of instrumentals and the closing ballad “Telos”) have all the aforementioned elements and all the songs are downright amazing. Also, Carson has ample growls, shouts, and screams to keep things nice and death metal-y, as well as solid clean vocals that imbue Dan Swano from his Edge of Sanity years.

The Lethean might not be quite the generational classic like CrimsonBack to Times of Splendor or Cybion, but it’s for sure one of the best releases I’ve heard in 2022 if not the last few years.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
August 8th, 2022


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