According to their website, UK-based Xerath has but one purpose: “to remain on the cutting edge of symphonic metal.” Combining bombastic, sweeping film score elements with chunky guitar chug and groove is certainly one way to do it. In fact, the band has referred to this hybrid sound as “chugscore” (although that could also just be the point system for a drinking contest). Basically, this sounds like Meshuggah backed by a symphony orchestra, with a powerful ‘core vocal performance and tight, precise polyrhythmic drumming. It also boasts a fantastic production, courtesy of Kalisia’s Brett-Caldas-Lima, who handled the mixing and mastering duties.

Opener “Intrenity” might initially confuse with its Dimmu Borgir/Cradle of Filth goth theatrics, but when the sci-fi keyboard washes and heavy chug come in, all of that is blasted away. Picture a towering metallic behemoth crunching its way across a wartorn landscape – backlit by a glorious holocaust sunset – and you’ll be ready for the rest of the album’s apocalyptic fury.

Follow-up “Alterra” brings more active guitar riffs into the forefront, trading off with the orchestration to become the dual-chambered engine that propels the juggernaut forward. Here, Xerath also shows that it’s not all classical sturm und drang. At the song’s midpoint, the orchestration soars heroically skyward, as if breaking through the ash-clouds with a cleansing blast of light. If you couldn’t already tell, this album is just begging for some grimy dystopian anime to be set against.

Now, while those early songs were impressive as sonic assaults, I can’t say I was really blown away by the songwriting. Part of it is just my preference for more structure than what this brand of jerky, polyrhythmic Meshuggah-style chaos usually offers. It’s also that there are plenty of majestic moments throughout, but as each one of these interludes sounds like a crescendo or climax in its own right, it’s hard to really get swept away by a single composition.

Luckily, tracks like “Consequences,” “False History” and standout two-part epic “Reform I and II” bring a much more unified approach to the experience, even folding in guitar solos and breakneck pacing. They feel more thought out, more carefully constructed, and as such, held my attention more consistently.

Excited listeners may easily draw comparisons to Dimmu Borgir, Strapping Young Lad or even the last Septic Flesh album, but Xerath most remind me of what Fear Factory might have evolved into had they continued working with Front Line Assembly mastermind Rhys Fulber, whose moody, crackling electronic soundscapes added so much atmosphere to some of Demanufacture’s best tracks. The groove and chug here is not always as exciting as the blistering furnace of “Zero Signal” or “Pisschrist,” but Xerath has definitely been born of the same damaged assembly line.

An impressive, if not completely world-destroying debut.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jordan Itkowitz
July 27th, 2009

Comments

  1. Commented by: elguerosinfe

    I really like this album a lot. Sort of reminds me of Green Carnation or Pain of Salvation meets The Project Hate.


  2. Commented by: timshel

    I’m digging this one, even though you’re right, it’s basically Meshuggah with more atmosphere.

    Man, Candlelight is having a hell of a year: Blut Aus Nord, Absu, Anaal Nathrakh, Obituary, and now this one, too – plus Insomnium’s new one soon.


  3. Commented by: Apollyon

    Despite agreeing on the songwriting part and its (in)ability to hold interest at all times, this is definitely one of the better albums to come out this year.


  4. Commented by: Nick

    I’m quite impressed with this album. I would never be able to blend these two types of music, nonetheless well. Great debut.


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