Xerath - I
Symphonic Groove Metal
10 songs (39:31)
Release year: 2009
Reviewed by Goat

Who’d have thought it? Finally, an original band has emerged from the hordes of the downtuned, adding progressive flourishes and symphonic grandeur to the basic palette of deep grooves and creating an (imaginatively named!) album that gets better with each listen. To be honest, initial listens will leave you rather nonplussed, as the band switch between sounding like Soilent Green and Meshuggah jamming with Dimmu Borgir. Give it time, and the elements soon rearrange themselves, although there’s plenty of mid-period Chimaira-styled Metalcore on show, which may be the factor in many Metalheads rejecting the band.

It would be a shame if that were the case, as there are plenty of good ideas being explored here. From the moment that album opener Intrenity bursts into life with an epic flourish from the orchestral backing it’s hard to ignore, and the technical guitar grooves provide a great listen to keep listening. Alterra follows, pumping up the intensity, yet from then on the album becomes a little repetitive, the Groove Metal components of Xerath’s sound being too samey and covering up the experimental moments like Nocturnum’s switch into Gothic Metal territory with piano and female vocals. The band’s stated aim is to combine ‘film-score’ with syncopated guitar rhythms, and whilst they’ve succeeded that far you can’t help but wish that they’d gone a bit further and truly took that aim to the logical conclusion.

I’d love to describe this as John Williams meets Strapping Young Lad and praise it to the skies – how often do you hear of bands that really try and innovate like this, after all? Unfortunately, I is just not diverse enough to earn unrestrained praise. Most tracks, especially False History, have excellent dynamics, and there are moments here that will make you catch your breath with their sheer musical perfection. Yet Richard Thompson’s harsh vocals have absolutely no variety – clean vocals would have fit in better, in many ways – and all too often you’ll wish he would shut up so the groove can work up the usual hypnotic effect. Perhaps the full effect would have come across better if the band had kept the guitar riffs in the background mix-wise rather than at the front as they are here... heck, I’m sure there are plenty of Metal fans that are going to eat this up, but it doesn’t quite live up to its potential for me, and so I’ll wait for II or whatever the follow-up will be called before declaring Symphonic Groove the future of Metal. For the moment, I is an original album that promises much from this talented band.

Killing Songs :
Alterra, False History, Reform pt I & II, Right To Exist
Goat quoted 73 / 100
Other albums by Xerath that we have reviewed:
Xerath - III reviewed by Goat and quoted 80 / 100
Xerath - II reviewed by Jaime and quoted 80 / 100
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