England's Xerath really hit a home run with their debut full-length, I, back in 2009. The band's unique blend of groove metal and symphonic orchestrations immediately gained them recognition from metal fans worldwide - myself included. Two years later, and Xerath have returned with the equally imaginatively-titled II. While still staying true to their core sound, the band sounds even more mature and experienced this time around, making II the best release Xerath has put together to date. Anyone who enjoys groove metal, symphonic keyboards, and progressive overtones definitely owes it to themselves to check out yet another fantastic effort from Xerath.
Like their debut album, the music on II is very much like Swedish veterans Meshuggah, but with orchestrations and a slightly more melodic approach. If you're an extreme metal purist, don't let the symphonic keyboards scare you away - they are extremely well-done and never detract from the other instrumentation, but instead add a haunting element to Xerath's music. Aside from the orchestral elements, the music here is a heavy and technical mix of thrash metal, death metal, and groove metal; mostly played in a downtuned, "djent" style. Although music this heavy and technical could get monotonous, II is an exceptionally well-written album and every composition is memorable, given enough time to sink in. This does take a few spins to fully grasp, but once you give it the time it deserves, II reveals itself as a terrific album.
The production and musicianship here are both absolutely wonderful. I remember back when I came out that I was very impressed by the technical capabilities of Xerath, and it seems that they've improved even more since then. I especially have to mention guitarist Owain Williams and drummer Michael Pitman when discussing the musicianship here - both of these guys are especially spectacular musicians, and an absolute blast to listen to. As previously mentioned, the production is great and provides a slick, powerful, and polished sound that suits the music perfectly.
In case you haven't checked out Xerath yet, II is probably their best release to date. This album shows a band oozing with creativity, inspiration, and plenty of damn good extreme metal to offer. II should reveal itself as one of the year's best metal albums - it really is that good. Anyone who enjoys crushingly heavy groove metal with a sense of melody and taste for orchestrations should definitely further investigate this great album. 4 stars are well-deserved.
1. Unite to Defy (05:24)
2. God of the Frontlines (04:37)
3. Reform III (04:36)
4. The Call to Arms (05:52)
5. Machine Insurgency (04:55)
6. Sworn to Sacrifice (04:44)
7. Enemy Incited Armageddon (07:24)
8. Nuclear Self Eradication (05:29)
9. Numbered Among the Dead (04:36)
10. The Glorious Death (08:34)