I was pretty enthusiastic about Xerath’s debut album, simply entitled I. That record was a fresh blend of Meshuggah styled dissonant guitar riffs, odd time changes and a thick layer of symphonic elements. There was some room for improvement though. Not all the tunes were that memorable and their trademark sound was a bit too much at times. Xerath have returned to the fold with a new album, entitled II. Let’s see whether they have improved upon themselves.
After a couple of spins I can only conclude the band managed to take things to the next level. The balance and interaction between the Meshuggah styled guitar parts and the symphonic/orchestral parts has improved considerably. The song material itself is more complex and refined, thus more interesting. Examples of Xerath’s improved confidence are God Of The Frontlines, Reform Part III, Sworn To Sacrifice and Numbered Among The Dead.
The Dimmu Borgir references are also present and quite in the forefront to be honest. A track like God Of The Frontlines could have easily been included on Abrahadabra. The screams by singer Richard Thompson have more venom in them than what Shagrath manages to spit on the last couple of Dimmu records. Thompson uses more clean vocals on II, but this really adds something to the music, instead of making things more accessible for the sake of commerce. Devin Townsend and Strapping Young Lad are another prominent influence, especially on Reform Part III, Machine Insurgency and Nuclear Self Eradication.
The album has a spacious sound. This kind of intense and bombastic music really benefits from it. It prevents the listener from becoming overwhelmed by the symphonic and grooving behemoth that is II.
Xerath have really managed to take things to the next level with their latest album. The music is still as overwhelming as ever, but thanks to the enhanced song structures and a better balance it’s a bit easier to digest. II is a very convincing follow up record and with the abundant talent of these guys I’m certain the next record will be a real killer.
Written by Raymond Westland