My email inbox has been a tad lacking in musical luster lately, little new news and no interesting promos, which have been conveniently going to Matt and Tyson lately. Can you imagine my pleasant surprise when I discovered a press release from Erthe and Axen Records informing me that my favorite new extreme progressive metal band (Xanthochroid) had released a cover song from my all-time favorite band (Opeth)? Or when I later discovered that they also produced a music video for the cover?

I think this deserves a retro diary. Here are my impressions from Xanthochroid’s “Harvest”, a cover of Opeth’s song of the same name off their 2001 album “Blackwater Park”:

0:00 – An interesting choice, starting with the memorable chorus in Gregorian Chant-style. But very well done, and quite reminiscent of the beginning of Symphony X’s Divine Wings of Tragedy.

0:15 – Early impressions of the video: my expectations went from “this will probably be a fun, campy film” to “damn, these guys actually know how to work a camera”. Solid opening shots, and brownie points for showcasing beautiful Northern California.

0:53 – When they said it was a “Black Metal Version”, I was expecting an immediate foray into blast beats, but the rhythm has been fairly restrained and only feels moderately heavier/faster than Opeth’s original, mostly due to the tremolo guitar picking.

1:09 – Classy pipe shot! Look at that smoke! My expectation have been raised to “Grammy nominee” level!

1:39 – And enter harsh vocals. I like ’em, but I can see purists getting huffy about it, saying things like “Mikael is an underrated singer, why would they bastardize his performance”. Actually, I can’t see that — suck it up, it’s a cover.

2:10 – Oh, that chorus!! I really like how Xanthochroid chose to interpret it; the vocals give the wall of metal behind them such an epic feel.

3:17 – I didn’t notice any piano the first time through the chorus, but I’m zoning in on it this time around. If I had to describe a signature Xanthochroid sound, it would be that: intense, layered keyboards or vocals over a fast driving rhythm section — all highlighted by gorgeous, sweeping piano. The perfect example is in “The Leper’s Prospect” off the band’s debut album, “Blessed He With Boils”.

3:50 – The instrumental section, unlike Opeth’s, has less percussion, which for me makes the bass guitar more evident. In other news, the video has remained quite nice looking but the story, involving a animal skin-wearing, sword wielding, tattooed protagonist, is confusing. Why is he so mournful? And why the hell is he in an orchard, anyway…

Into the orchard I walk peering way past the gate.
Wilted scenes for us who couldn’t wait.
Drained by the coldest caress, stalking shadows ahead.
Halo of death, all i see is departure.
Mourner’s lament but it’s me who’s to martyr.

Aha! So it’s one of those artistic, interpretive videos. I smell what you’re stepping in, Xanthochroid.

5:00 – I’m actually glad that they chose to go with a simpler guitar solo and not emulate the jazzy/bluesy section from the original. It just works better that way.

6:13 – “Release your grip!” Has sent chills down my spine for years.

7:02 – Cool ending to the video. Pretty, and yet sort of creepy at the same time.

Well, that’s a wrap! I hope you enjoyed the cover/video as much as I did. There’s a free download link for the audio track in the YouTube video description, so by sure to grab it for future listening enjoyment.