|Musical Style: Melodic Hard Rock||Produced By: Sonny Larsson & Bjorn Stigsson|
|Record Label: Viva||Country Of Origin: Sweden|
|Year Released: 1993||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 12||Rating: 75%|
|Running Time: 45:53|
XT came about as a result of a partnership that formed between Leviticus guitarist Bjorn Stigsson and Motherlode vocalist Sonny Larsson. With its name standing as an acronym for Christ, the beginning of XT can be traced back to 1987 when Larsson contributed the lead vocals to five tracks on Stigsson’s very fine 1989 solo effort Together With Friends. Subsequent to Leviticus disbanding after playing its final show in Fort Lauderdale in March, 1990, Stigsson and Larsson took a year away from music in order to attend Bible school before officially forming XT in late 1991. When the two got back together, they immediately began work on new material for the bands self-titled 1992 debut, a project moving in a more keyboard driven pop rock based direction that was held back by the overall thin sounding feel to its production. Stigsson and Larsson regrouped a year later, however, for the heavier and more guitar driven melodic hard rock of its sophomore album Taxfree. A much more consistent and polished effort, Taxfree does a much better job of showcasing the potential of the two: Larsson continues to bring his high pitched lead vocal style, exhibiting his versatility by smoothly complementing the ballad “My First Morning” while adding a more aggressive touch to his delivery on the semi-ballad “The False Prophet”. Stigsson remains in top form as well by displaying his talents on lead guitar on two excellent hard rockers in “Sign Of The Time” and “Walk In Shadows”.
Please note that Taxfree, which was not originally licensed for distribution outside Europe, was recently re-issued by Rivel Records but as a limited edition pressing of only 300 copies.
While production values are a step forward when compared to the self-titled debut, a slight but noticeable element of thinness still permeates the albums sonics. This is best evident in the low end in that the bass guitar and drums do not always stand out in the mix as they should. The lead guitar, on the other hand, is allowed to evenly rise above the instrumentation.
“Chaos” is a brief (:15) instrumental album opener carried by a blend of vocal harmonies and rhythm guitar.
After melodic hard rocker “The One” begins to a near perfect blend of rhythm guitar and keyboards, the keyboards play a commanding but complementary role in the mix upon attaining its first verse. Gaining momentum for its pre-chorus, “The One” culminates for a chorus backed in a rousing manner by vocal harmonies.
“Face To Face” continues the album in its melodic hard rock direction. The quietly played guitar line at the start of the song slowly leads the way through its first verse. Once a choppy rhythm guitar steps forward, it takes “Face To Face” at a more upbeat tempo to a chorus with a good encouraging message:
Face to face-
‘Cause you’re a believer don’t turn away into the night
Face to face-
With truth and delusions, break the spell and carry on
“My First Morning” is a very well done ballad carried its extent by a compelling blend of acoustic guitar and keyboards. The effective use of backing vocals in its chorus helps give the song just the right amount of commercial touch but not so much as to come across overriding. Definitely one of the albums highlights.
The album returns to its melodic hard rock ways with “Got Love”. Advancing through its verse portions with a ton of mid-tempo grace and class, “Got Love” smoothly transitions to a resounding chorus buttressed by a forward mix of keyboards. A very appropriate keyboard solo opens an instrumental section highlighted b several seconds of gritty lead guitar.
The semi-ballad “The Silent Cry” is slowly compelled through its first verse by an acoustic guitar. After the rhythm section steps forward, the song gradually builds and gains impetus until the rhythm guitar asserts itself for an emotionally charged chorus with a good catchy hook. Stigsson furnishes several seconds of bluesy lead guitar work.
“Carry On” ranks among the albums heaviest tracks and proves a good precursor to the more guitar driven material found on the bands follow up effort Extended Empire. The song takes off to a nice crunchy guitar riff that holds sway in commanding fashion over its verse portions. Maintaining its guitar driven momentum, “Carry On” achieves a hard rocking chorus in which the band makes another encouraging statement towards the body of Christ:
You’ve got to carry on
To the Kingdom of love
The Lord is on your side
“The False Prophet” is a semi-ballad that slowly moves through its first verse as Larsson adds an element of grit and gravel to his vocal delivery, the sweeping chorus that follows fortified in inauspicious fashion by an acoustic guitar. Subsequent to the rhythm guitar taking over with full force, it shows up the songs second chorus with just the right amount of infectious attention getting appeal. Excellent track and one of the albums best.
An edgy rhythm guitar drives the hard rocking “Sign Of The Time” forward from the start, the up-tempo atmosphere maintained as the song moves on to a sass-flavored chorus reinforced by a touch of backing vocals. Stigsson contributes a fast paced guitar solo to a song talking about the second coming:
Soon you will see a light from East to West
The Son of Man is coming back, surrounded by clouds
He will appear in the sky and every eye will see Him
The acoustic guitar opening “Walk In Shadows” gradually leads the way through its first verse. Picking up in pace once the rhythm guitar kicks in, the song smoothly flows to a chorus that begins in an upbeat manner only to slow to a quietly played guitar line at its end. A blazing guitar solo tops off my favorite track from Taxfree.
“One Way To Heaven” is the only track here to not quite make it for me. The song moves through its verse portions at an even mid-tempo pace only to hit a wall upon reaching a chorus that is not quite strong enough to always maintain my full attention riveted.
“Paradise” is an instrumental carried its brief (1:16) distance by keyboards.
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Chaos” (:15), “The One” (3:31), “Face To Face” (4:21), “My First Morning” (4:01), “Got Love” (3:59), “The Silent Cry” (4:54), “Carry On” (4:53), “The False Prophet” (6:08), “Sign Of The Time” (3:27), “Walk In Shadows” (4:45), “One Way To Heaven” (4:16), ‘Paradise” (1:16)
Sonny Larsson – Lead Vocals
Bjorn Stigsson – Guitars
Niklas Johnsson – Keyboards
P-O Larsson – Bass
Mick Nordstrom - Drums
“XT – Extending God’s Empire.” Heaven’s Metal 53 (1995): 24-25.
“XT Biography.” Online article available at: http://hem.passagen.se/bransell/XT.html