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XERATH: II (Album Review)

By Aniruddh "Andrew" Bansal

Release Date: May 3rd, 2011
Review Date: March 17th, 2011
Record Label: Candlelight

My rating:

    Track Listing:
  1. Unite to Defy
  2. God of the Frontlines
  3. Reform Pt. III
  4. The Call to Arms
  5. Machine Insurgency
  6. Sworn to Sacrifice
  7. Enemy Incited Armageddon
  8. Nuclear Self Eradication
  9. Numbered Among the Dead
  10. The Glorious Death

Xerath's debut album 'I' was called by the metal press as one of the most exciting things to come out of the British metal scene for some time. With that kind of a reputation to their name, the experimental metal quartet return with their sophomore release, following the title pattern of the first one and simply titled 'II'. For those who are unfamiliar with the band, they started out in 2007 as an experiment to combine film score composition with extreme metal, and since their inception they have rapidly progressed as musicians, as is evident from this particular release.

The album gets off to a very symphonic start with "Unite To Defy", even though the 'chug-chug' of the guitar riffs keeps things heavy and the combination of the two elements is quite interesting. The band doesn't get in top gear yet, and this is only a sign of things to come. The following tune "God Of The Frontlines" has a similar tempo but is richer in its layering, with multiple orchestral layers augmenting the guitar sound in the foreground. "Reform Pt III" on the other hand is a heavy, guitar driven track that does not lay much focus on the orchestral sound. It's certainly one of the most enjoyable songs on the album and should turn out be a killer addition to their live set.

"The Call To Arms" is a very progressive tune, and offers some great variations as compared to the other tracks. It has the first instance of clean vocals and a proper guitar solo, and the changing musical passages come across very naturally without sounding forced. In comparison, "Machine Insurgency" has a rather constant rhythm throughout its duration. The brutal riffs have quite a bit of Fear Factory about them, which can never be a bad thing. It's an absolutely crushing tune that should become an instant success among listeners. "Sworn To Sacrifice" in contrast is centered around the orchestral sound, keeping things different and interesting for the listener. Even though every track so far has showcased the eclectic mix of influences the band has based their music on, "Enemy Incited Armageddon" is truly the one brilliantly written song which gives them complete opportunity to present both aspects of the music in full force, along with a pleasant surprise thrown in at the end. As a result, it turns out to be the most well-composed, darkest sounding and atmospheric track on the entire record.

"Nuclear Self Eradication" continues more of the brutal symphony, with some Dream Theater-esque guitar segments thrown in for good measure. "Numbered Among The Dead" follows a very similar song structure and goes from ear crushing to ear pleasing within the five minutes of its duration. "The Glorious Death" perhaps justifies its title, because it's a nicely crafted tune that succeeds in creating a bleak atmosphere, hence coming across as a glorious ending, or glorious death to the album. Besides the guitars and the orchestral sound, the standout aspect of this song is the drumming, as Michael Pitman adapts beautifully with precision to the variations within the tune and throws in some great fills that enhance the music further.

Overall, Xerath have taken their song writing skills to a new level with this release, as can be heard on tunes like "The Call To Arms", "Enemy Incited Armageddon", "Nuclear Self Eradication" and "The Glorious Death". Xerath's debut album was indeed one of the most exciting things to come from British metal, and this album not only reiterates that fact, but drives the point home emphatically. Here's an album that should appeal to metalheads across the board, ranging from fans of symphonic black metal, Meshuggah-type djent metal, progressive metal, and even to fans of groove metal bands like Fear Factory.

A mind-blowing composition that presents the truly unique and high-class musicianship of Xerath. It is sure to enhance their reputation and is an album that will allow them to create a stranglehold on the experimental metal scene in the foreseeable future.

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