“I”, the debut album by newcomers XERATH, is described as a mixture of “state-of-the-art” MESHUGGAH-style riffs and orchestral elements. I didn’t mind the latter at all but the mere mention of those Swedes made me throw up in my mouth a little. I hate them – every note of every song. With my expectations thus severely dented I went into this album with apprehension.
Well, those annoying staccato riffs of the abovementioned band are all over the place, together with a lot of tough-guy vocals, and while neither raised my pulse I must admit that most of what’s on offer here turned out better than I had expected. I wouldn’t call this groundbreaking or state of the art fare, it is only stop-go riffs with a strong symphonic/orchestral backdrop after all, but for a debut outing this is pretty ambitious stuff. The sound is simply huge in places and barring a few instances the orchestral and keyboard-driven parts are deftly handled, finely toeing the line between futuristic (think MNEMIC during their better moments, fleeting as they may be) and grand (think modern day DIMMU BORGIR). It lends the album a richly textured and sufficiently atmospheric vibe that provides a solid counterpoint to the more straightforward rumble of the guitars/vocals. This is especially evident in the opening three tracks, which are by far the best on offer here. The huge sound of “Intrenity” sounds like a Devin Townsend interpretation of a score lifted out of Star Wars, while the more classical sounding orchestration of “Alterra” and “Nocturnum” mesh very nicely with the mid-paced riffs and occasional female vocal accompaniment. These tracks are tight, focused and infinitely more engaging than the rest of the album, which sadly amounts to nothing more than a bunch of stop-go riffs and monotone growls/screams. The ambient and orchestral touches are solid all the way through (especially the serene melodies of “False History” and the choral opening of “Right To Exist”), but the riffs never approach anything even remotely exciting. I basically end up paying way more attention to the atmospheric background sounds than the actual riffs and vocal arrangements, which is an indication of the blandness of the latter elements.
I give the band thumbs up for painting a vastly atmospheric sonic tapestry in terms of the orchestral side of things but they definitely need to cook up a set of more exciting (not to mention lively) riffs next time round if they are to stand a chance of making a splash in the world of modern Metal. The sound is tight and while nothing on here can qualify as outright crap the sad fact is that the album grows stale by the fourth track and never really recovers after that. They write excellent intros and interludes but not good songs and as such I have no other option than to award “I” a rather average rating.
(Online June 18, 2009)