“II” is the second full-length release for the boys from Britain. The band’s progressive tech metal, almost djent, sound and orchestral inclusions may seem slightly out of step given the genre’s history. Xerath boasts a very minimal line-up meaning this quartet has only a single guitarist, which may indicate some limitations of their music. Can these orchestral sounds and the minimal instruments hold up in this style’s rich history?
The opener, ‘Unite to Defy’, descends on the listener amidst clouds of symphonic music. It is not long before the chameleon like affects, disappear and the true nature drops full force. These opening wisps of pleasantry give way quickly to hard driving maximum force metal. This illusion of expectation of an over melodic style of metal carries into the second track as well, ‘God of the Frontlines’. In reality nothing could be further from the truth. Both tracks may boast some wonderful orchestral accompaniment but at their core are brutal metal riffs and beats accentuated by Thompson’s vitriolic singing. By the third track the cacophony of metal is from the first to the last note. This foursome may only have one guitarist but in the third track, ‘Reform Pt. III’, Williams treats us with some truly fantastic riffs and notes. Some rather brilliant bass lines and drumming work accentuate the guitar mastery. Clark plays some really tremendous bass work on this track, giving it full power to cause whiplash for any head-banger.
Throughout most of the tracks the wondrous layers of orchestral and synthesizer interludes go from subtle to obvious. This ponderous arrangement adds a level of complexity to the music and yet seems such a natural part of each song. One of the best examples of this subtle use is on ‘Nuclear Self Eradication’. This addition to the album has almost a thrash feel as the song progresses but the subtle layer of synthesizer interludes leave the listener with anything but a thrash feel. Rather the listener is treated to a complexity of sounds somewhere between raw hammer power and ethereal. This may sound mismatched but in no way is it. The brilliant arrangement of Xerath, with the masterful mixing meshes in perfection. The closer to “II” is the marvellous, ‘The Glorious Death’, combining all elements in the first nine tracks into one extraordinary package. This type of ending leaves the listener wanting and wishing for more. The peaks and crescendos achieved carried atop plateaus of symphonic notes are nothing short of pure metal genius. They guide the listener through a metal maze with something different and fresh at every turn.
Any thought of simplicity due to minimalism is quickly dismissed and as each track progresses. This quartet from the UK dispels any notion that they are not up to their genre’s task. “II” is a rich metal sound with layers of complexity ranging from unique celestial style arrangements to some truly artful bass lines. For any metal fan out there this is a truly unique head banging experience. “II” is a tremendous album packed full of metal surprise after metal surprise. It is well worth the experience of listening.