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Xerath - "II" (CD)

Xerath - "II" CD cover image

"II" track listing:

1. Unite to Defy
2. God of the Frontlines
3. Reform Part 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

Reviewed by on April 6, 2011

"The riffs are larger than life and the songs have a progressive edge to them. "

With their patented ‘chug-score’ sound (imagine a cross between Meshuggah and Dimmu Borgir), the United Kingdom’s Xerath has been pushing a unique brand of crushingly low tuned guitars and symphonic string elements since 2007. They have now released their sophomore record, the cleverly-titled “II.”

With the departure of original guitarist Andy Phillips from the fold, you would had been forgiven if you thought that the progress made by the four piece could have easily been derailed. Fortunately for the group, bass player Owain Williams has jumped over to the six strings, and Chris Clark, formerly of The Hollow Earth Theory, has come in to fill the vacant bass position. Obviously a natural born guitarist, Williams’ transition into the role of the group’s axeman is completely seamless, as the riffs are larger than life and the songs have a more progressive edge to them than their debut. “God of the Frontlines,” “The Call To Arms” and the off time guitar mayhem of opening track “Unite To Defy” are coated in six string goodness, boosted by the tight, punchy production.

The album's longer numbers, “Enemy Incited Armageddon” and the massive closing tune “The Glorious Death” (which closes with a riff of biblical proportions), will take a few repeated spins to sink in, while album highlight “Numbered Among the Dead” features an awesome guitar solo and a powerful chorus. Some of the tracks don’t hold the same quality as the album's highlights, with the stock standard riffing of “Sworn to Sacrifice” and “Machine Insurgency” making the tracks pretty forgettable.

To be frank, sometimes the added string and orchestral sections feel tacked on. Yes, it is the band’s unique selling point, but the symphonic occasions on more than a few instances could have been removed from a track without taking away anything from the song at all – take for example “Nuclear Self Eradication,” a song which is smothered in distracting string sections. The high screams of Richard Thomson do become pretty repetitive quickly, and this reviewer’s personal taste leans towards lower growls, but the addition of clean vocals sporadically used across the record helps to spice things up.

“II” does have its weaker points, but to focus heavily on them would be to criminally overlook a pretty impressive record full of big guitars, big drum work and, ultimately, great, heavy-progressive tunes. Xerath might not quite have the winning combination yet, but it’s only a matter of time before the Brits completely nails their sound.

Highs: Big, meaty riffs bouncing around in progressive time signatures

Lows: The overuse of string parts messes things up occasionally

Bottom line: While a bit inconsistent, Xerath's second album is a crushing 58 minute voyage

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)