I Can't Wait To Hear More From This Band!
The first time I heard the debut album from Xerath, I, not only was I extremely impressed by the music, I was in complete shock that this is a debut album. These musicians have next to no experience in other bands, but everything about this album sounds like it was made by extreme metal veterans. The production is fantastic, the musicians are incredible, the songwriting is solid, and the music is unique and enjoyable. Although, like all debuts, there are a few flaws, judging by the sheer quality of this release, I'm sure Xerath will fix it sooner rather than later.
The sound on I is pretty unique. There is a heavy Meshuggah flavor here, but much more melodic. Another unique thing about Xerath is that all of the songs are pretty heavily orchestrated, something you don't find too often in extreme metal. There is also definite progressive metal and power metal influences, but most of the "progressiveness" lies in the orchestrations. The band often calls themselves "orchestral groove metal", and I think that's a pretty accurate description for the Xerath newcomer. If you like metal with heavy symphonic orchestrations, and can handle extreme metal vocals, this album should be right up your alley.
I is a 10-track, 39:31 album. Even though I often complain about extreme metal albums for being too long (over 40-45 minutes), I honestly wish there were more material here. I'm sure Xerath could've pulled off an hour album with ease. This album is incredibly consistent, and all of the songs are absolutely awesome. My favorites are the opening Intrenity, Reform, Part I, Reform, Part II, Right to Exist and Nocturnum. All of the songs are fantastic, though. You could criticize Xerath for having the whole album played in a similar style with no real variation, but it's not a big problem for me. I love their style, and there's enough tempo and mood variations to keep me interested. Not to mention the tracks are absolutely headbanging-worthy.
As mentioned, the musicians are absolutely fantastic, and it's hard to believe that this is their debut album. Michael Pitman especially deserves a round of applause. That guy's an absolute monster on the drums. I have no complaints with any of the other members, as they are all great. I wish there would have been a bit more vocal variation (e.g. clean vocals), but they're fine the way they are. I do love when the operatic vocals occasionally pop up, though. They really add some great variation.
The production is fantastic. It's clean, heavy, and powerful, while still paying attention to small details in the orchestrations. It was mixed by Brett Caldas-Lima, so the fantastic sound doesn't really come as a surprise.
I is a truly superb debut by Xerath, and one of the best extreme metal debuts to come out in 2009. Despite a few small flaws (lack of variation, the album's too short), this is a fantastic release that I will strongly recommend to anyone even slightly interested in extreme prog metal. A 4 star rating is deserved for this great album.