Friday, August 27, 2010

Xerath - I

A somewhat interesting idea marred by shitty music

I like music when it's taken to an extreme. I've grown to like damn near everything that metal has to offer purely because I'm in love with the concept of extremes. Over the years, I've warmed up to my former punching bag in drone. I've grown to see the appeal of insanely raw black metal and ridiculous goregrind. Everything from the stupidly over-the-top (Dragonforce) to the most dismally downtempo (Wormphlegm) has entered my regular listening cycles because of the fact that the bands in question had the balls to push their music to the extreme. Hell, a large portion of what I listen to isn't extreme at all, but the point I'm trying to make is that I'm more likely to enjoy a mediocre yet enthusiastic black/thrash band than a mediocre yet creative band in a safe genre. And this is where Xerath enters the picture.

Xerath garnered a large following due to word of mouth and likeness to Meshuggah back last year. Something about the "orchestral" prefix really piqued my curiosity when I first heard about the band, and the sad fact is that the term should be used in quotation marks no matter what the context. Meshuggah got lucky, their trademark style is incredibly simple in essence (two or three note riffs played in a complicated time signature with no progression and mindless yelling over the top), but it's one that's inimitable because nobody can try to tackle a similar approach without being egged by all the Meshuggah fans for being shameless clones. Xerath was capable of emulating this style, and even improving it by putting in more than three riffs per song plus a few short solos with an actual sense of melody, but couldn't really take off due to the aforementioned issue with playing the style. So they decided to pull what Winds of Plague did, and just add keyboards. Xerath were guaranteed popularity purely because they managed to sound like Meshuggah with one key difference. The same problem that the aforementioned deathcore abomination suffered from is just as prevalent here, and that's that the keys typically don't actually do anything. They layer over the top of songs that sound like they were written without the synths in mind. They play root chords and fade away, nothing more. There's nothing more frustrating to me than hearing a band that actually has potential and an interesting idea end up sucking because they can't get out of the rut they started in.

None of the songs on I stand out thanks to yet another inherited trait in the indistinguishability. I hate to keep comparing the band to Meshuggah, but this is darn near the only influence I can pick out within the actual meat of the disc. Every issue I have with the Swedish faux-progsters is reciprocated with this British counterpart. The riffs are uninteresting chugfests, the vocals are a tuneless and unvarying shout, the percussion manages to be complex yet profoundly boring, and nearly nothing sticks in your head after repeated listens. The one and only time I ever said "wow, that part was actually pretty fucking cool" was during the very last track, "Right to Exist". The variances in the riffing are less subtle and more interesting in that song, plus the guitars finally take a back seat to a worthy symphonic part for the first time on the record. Oh sure, there are extended breaks throughout the album, but the orchestrations are pedestrian and weak during all but this last one. I'll also mention the track "Alterra", purely because I actually sense a strong Pantera vibe in the front half as opposed to that dirty "M" word for the first and only time.

Honestly, I'd recommend this only to fans of Meshuggah or any of those proggy types who value difficulty to play over memorability or songwriting. If you're interested because of the supposed epic orchestrations like I was, look elsewhere. The promises of polyrhythmic chunk melded seamlessly with emotional symphonics are empty promises indeed. You'll be just as well off with playing Chaossphere loudly and In Sorte Diaboli quietly in the background.

RATING - 23%

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