Xerath - III (Candlelight Records)

Sci-fi progressive metal from a galaxy far, far away...
Release Date: 
17 Sep 2014 (All day)

If you’re looking for the best soundtrack for the dystopian science-fiction future nearly upon us, the extreme metal band Xerath’s new album gets about as close as you can get. At the very least, it would be a fantastic soundtrack for the next great film about artificial intelligence gone wrong. Or the music for a cybernetic geisha dance troupe. Or even just to bang your head and throw up the horns. And that’s a wonderful feature about this album - no matter the context, it seems appropriate to give it a spin.

Xerath meld together progressive, symphonic, thrash and death metal elements - heavy emphasis on the progressive and symphonic - into a coherent whole on III, a genuine album as opposed to a collection of songs. Dream Theater and Meshuggah immediately come to mind when hearing Xerath, though the latter is more like their paranoid android cousin than a direct follower or successor of either band.

Proceedings begin on I Hold Dominion. This song opens with what sounds like a 21st century Tchaikovsky, dressed all in black and wearing eyeliner and a spiked collar around his neck, conducting an orchestra while Trent Reznor fiddles around with various electronics haphazardly. Bearing a title which should obviously be the anthem of Terminators everywhere, I Hunt For the Weak is groove orientated, thrashy, and anthemic all at the same time, and sure to get the mosh pit moving. Some occasional clean vocals slice through as a nice counterpoint to their generally harsh quality, in what will no doubt become sing along moments in a live setting.

Bleed This Body Clean, an absolute standout track and possibly the best on the album, sounds like a giant space battle being fought over an alien homeworld. Either that, or a total mental breakdown. The orchestral component, with the soaring strings, is spot on, choppy, oddly rhythmic progressive metal riffs sound huge enough to melt planets, bass adds a thud like a pleasurable headache, and the precision drumming somehow manages to keep everything on the rails. Sentinels is another delightful tune, enjoying gorgeous, gloriously over the top symphonic and orchestral grandeur. A progressive rock interlude in amongst all the chaos makes it presence felt with one of the best solos on the album a little over the midway mark. The rest of the songs are all solid, but nothing stands out quite as much as it does on the first half of the album.

The members of Xerath are evidently all virtuoso musicians, understand song structure very well, and are literally hemorrhaging some of the best progressive metal riffs around. Expansive and epic, III is an extremely solid release with numerous highlights. Unfortunately, it is a little too long and could have been tighter. Production is of a very high quality, and so clean it sparkles. Xerath integrate the various features and dynamics that defines their sound with style and substance, setting a quality benchmark on III that future Xerath albums will need to exceed. This reviewer does not doubt that they are entirely up to the task.