Few audio escapades this year will prove as richly rewarding as Xerath's II, a harsh collection of incinerating tunes buttered with lush orchestral segues. Xerath are a UK quartet who has had the good fortune of getting signed early, giving them a credible launch pad from which to embark on awesome albums. True to the machine efficiency that's an integral part of the Xerath repertoire, II is the continuation of its proggy sibling I. The difference? Not much, except a larger dosage of savagery on this latest effort.
Xerath have been rightfully hailed as peddlers of a unique aural blend. More than just grooving thrash in the vein of Fear Factory or Skinlab, Xerath inject Dimmu Borgir cinematic scores between their excruciatingly precise melodies. This means within the world of Xerath lurks titillation and fury, a state introduced to the listener with opening salvo Unite to Defy. The vocals from Richard Thomson belong to the harsher end of the spectrum and at times it grates. Anyone who has dug Biomechanical, Dimmu Borgir, Dark Tranquility and Fear Factory in the past will feel at home stewing in Xerath's juices.
II runs at an even pace and the full impact o Xerath isn't so much memorable songs that swirl inside the listener's brain, but the sheer brute force of the quartet's delivery. The martial themes that inhabit the album (perfect unofficial ackground music for games like Mass Effect, Dead Space, Killzone, and Halo) are a perfect combination with the band's proclivity to thrash. The best cuts inside this jam packed ten song album are Machine Insurgency, Enemy Incited Armageddon, the hypnotizing The Glorious Death, the album opener, and God of the Frontlines.
Despise the band's niche and utter mastery of an art form all their own, Xerath aren't flawless. It often sucks to always be a critic nit picking the petty foibles of different releases, unfortunately the awful truth is even the most acclaimed albums have shortcomings that diminish the appeal of the music's immersive experience. In Xerath's case the fusion of disparate tidbits from thrash, power metal, black metal, and the symphonic bombast tends to dilute the songs on occasion. Rather than create a beautiful creature, some of the material on II sinks under its own weight.
As a progressive album, however, II is the sh!t, a total kick in the pants that will bring you to your knees.