It was a chance occurrence, a stumbling of epic proportions. One of those moments where you felt your perception of music shift ever so slightly, but you knew that you would never look at things quite the same. Such was the day when I discovered Xanthochroid. I did not discover them through my reviewing endeavors. It was another favorite band of mine, Wintersun, that directly turned me on to them. Xanthochroid had recorded an acoustic/folk version of The Land of Snow and Sorrow and Wintersun shared the video. After watching it, I went and searched them out, and it was then that I knew something had changed.

Seldom have I heard something so ambitious, so reaching from any band, especially an American band. This is a listener's paradise of sound and moods, a stunning blend of aural colors which leaves your soul crying and craving for more. The balance on Blessed is so precarious that one feather, just one note played too heavy or one sung too lightly, would make the album sound completely different. This is perfect, like a Swiss clock, a masterwork where every note has a purpose, where everything happens at just the right time.

Classically trained, the members of Xanthochroid use their talent and skill not to merely show off what they can do, but rather to put into music what cannot be said with mere words. As a result, Blessed is an album that speaks with every note played. There need be no vocals or lyrics. This album would work as an instrumental piece- or even the reverse, as you can see here, they've stripped away everything but vocals and orchestra and it still works.

Xanthochroid bill themselves as 'Cinematic Black Metal'. While that's certainly a good start, it's not nearly descriptive enough. Cinematic it may be, and blackened it may also be at times, but the classical elements within Blessed cannot be ignored, nor can the progressive elements, or the melodic death metal, and even a subtle Latin rhythm will pop up from time to time. Folk instruments run wild through the album like sprites and faeries through a sylvan forest, but are never overpowering, and sometimes you don't notice them at all unless you're listening for them. Recurring themes are also present here, as melodies and passages will repeat at times in different songs with slightly different arrangements.

Reminiscent at times of older Dimmu Borgir and more recent Opeth, this album is best heard all at once rather than as separate tracks. That's why I can't pick a favorite, although In Putris Stagnum would be my favorite if you put a gun to my head and demanded that I choose just one. It's terribly difficult to separate one from the whole. You cannot just walk one segment in the middle of the journey, not if you want to experience the whole trip.

The truth is that this album, released on December 21, 2012, was probably what the Mayans were referring to. Out with the old, in with the new. This should be considered the best album of 2012. Few albums are so complete, so amazing to behold in their entirety. This is one you do not want to be interrupted when listening to.