Album Review: Xerath – III
Posted by christophermammal
Genre: Beautifully blurred; sometimes progressive death, sometimes orchestral groove, sometimes breakout extreme metal
Release date: 15 September 2014
Label: Candlelight Records
Length: 1 hour 9 minutes
Recommended to: Fans of Erra, Elitist, Beltane, Haunted Shores, Cloudkicker, Volumes, Structures
Mammal’s rating: 5 out of 5
The first two albums by Xerath, titled simply I and II, were sheer brilliance. Matching either of those releases, never mind topping them, would require a Herculean effort. Well, Xerath flexed their mighty thews and ensured that III is every bit as good as their previous work. In some respects I suppose it may be better. I’m not going to say it is, though. That would be like a believer saying God is better than God.
It’s quite a challenge to slot Xerath into any genre. Their musical approach is as wide as the sky and as deep as the place where angler fish have to carry headlamps.
Of the many qualities that characterise Xerath’s music, two that always spring to my equivalent of a mind are intensity and focus. I don’t know what the guys do in their free time, if they allow themselves any. I believe they could easily become darts champions. In their music they seem to concentrate on the target – not the whole board, just that little dot in the middle – and nothing distracts them from going for the bull’s-eye every time, on every track on every album so far.
They’re almost ridiculously good at finding that primary target with their first shot. Or throw, whatever. I don’t play much darts. Lately I’ve been playing a hell of a lot of Xerath, though.
The band set out in 2007 to develop a style of metal that would combine cinematic musical concepts with rock-hard, belly-punching riffs and soaring, caressing orchestration. They quickly got it right and have continued to develop from there. With their new album they have yet again created something of monumental splendour.
The music is lavish. The orchestral parts, gushing with the fullness of strings and brass, are a colossal part of the type of sound they have invented. Which has the better sound track music these days, movies or games? Xerath could probably set up a nifty sideline writing scores for those two media.
At the heart of everything, though, is the metal. The members of the band, Conor McGouran on guitars, Richard Thomson on vocals, Michael Pitman on drums and Christopher Clark on bass, are one of the most effective combinations you’ll hear. Much of the music on the metal side of their work is riff-driven. None the less, McGouran scorches through his inventive solo departures. Clark keeps the bass at a mostly low register but he also comfortably eases his way higher up the fret board. Pitman’s drumming is as exploratory as the legendary stick work of Sepultura’s Igor Cavalera. As for the vocals, Thomson can roar and growl with the best of ‘em, yet when he switches to clean vocals his voice is one of the most melodious I’ve heard in metal. “Bleed This Body Clean” beautifully displays the cinematic sweep of Xerath.
The addition of markedly progressive elements stands out among the many features of III that I find enchanting. Good prog rock bands battle to sound proggier than Xerath on some the instrumental passages. Pitman employs a very prog style of drumming for which I don’t know the term. It’s like playing the drums backwards, with the main beat coming at the end of the bar rather than the beginning. The song “Ironclad” perfectly illustrates what I mean.
Overall, III is one of the most potent contenders for my album of the year.
Xerath website: http://www.xerath.net/
Xerath on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/xerathuk?fref=ts