Sound — 8
Xerath originally formed in 2007 with the vision of creating some genre-bending music by combining orchestration that would normally be heard in modern film scores, and adding heavy drumming and guitars. This evolved rather quickly from a temporary project into a full-fledged band, especially after the band won Terrorizer Magazine's contest for best unsigned band. Soon after this the band was signed to Candlelight Records in 2008 and began releasing full-length albums. The band's first album was released fairly quickly in 2009, and the band had their first live show at a large event or venue at the Bloodstock Open Air Festival. "III" is the band's third studio album and contains 14 tracks with a total runtime of 68 minutes.
The album opens with the track "I Hold Dominion" that creates a nice epic feel early in the opening and has a screamed intro that is very reminiscent of Devin Townsend's vocal work with Strapping Young Lad. The riffs are interesting and change up enough to keep my attention. The backing vocalists provide a very strong chorus on this track. The track closes out with an almost "Jaws" theme type of outro. The next track is "2053" which is immediately one of my favorite tracks based on the rhythm guitar just in the first little bit of the track. The orchestral instrumentation is used more like exclamation points than like a separate entity in the song for this one, which I really enjoyed. "I Hunt for the Weak" definitely uses the orchestral parts to create an awesome melody to set the mood for the song, while the guitars and drums are just aggressive and pummeling. There are a lot more clean vocals on this track, but they work really well in contrast with Richard Thomson's super aggressive screams. "Autonomous" has a fairly long instrumental opening, with the orchestral instruments doing a lot to build up an epic feel, then the vocals come in and just light this track up. This track also contains one of my favorite solos on the album. "Bleed This Body Clean" opens up with a distorted guitar and bass trading off groove-heavy riffs with some orchestral instruments. This track remains one of the most vocally intense tracks on the album. The solo is also cleverly done, depending on a lot of outside notes to give it a very original sound. "Death Defiant" opens up with some intense guitar gallops and utilizes Richard's metal screams to full effect throughout the track. "Sentinels" opens up with some more ambient type of stuff going on with the track, but quickly moves into heavier material. The solo is the standout portion of this track, with a solo that would be at home in a metal track, or a classic rock or blues rock track. The orchestral instrumentation in this track are used almost exclusively for creating the mood of the track, with the guitar and drums really driving this track. "Passenger" opens up with an interesting melody being harmonized between the guitars and the orchestral instruments. The chorus is carried by clean vocals and there is a lot going on throughout the track with the orchestral instruments. "Ironclad" opens up with a relentlessly heavy guitar riff - very simple but powerful - which changes up to a neat little twisty riff and some interesting percussion. The song builds up into a straightforward rocker. "Demigod Doctrine" is another track with a strong instrumental intro, though parts of the percussion seemed really subpar - especially when compared with the rest of the album. The orchestral instruments continue to do an excellent job creating the mood of the songs. "The Chaos Reign" starts out with a little repeating riff, and a few measures in the rest of the instrumentation come in with it and makes a powerful impression. The clean vocals used in the chorus on this track may be the best use of clean vocals on the album. "Witness" opens up with a good dose of aggression and screaming. The bass guitar is probably the MVP for the intro to this track. There is a lot of interesting things going on with the vocals on this track, as well. The last two tracks are kind of a two part piece - "Veil, Part I" and "Veil, Part II." "Veil, Part I" uses some falsetto vocals, almost operatic, and some distorted guitars with stringed instruments added in for drama. As the track goes on, the orchestral instrumentation gets more complex, as well as the repeating riff on guitar. "Veil, Part II" closes out the album with an orchestral string section opening up the track, but soon joined by a distorted guitar acting almost as the lead instrument of the stringed section, and other instruments come and go throughout the track. The orchestral percussion is used to good effect for a portion of this track, as well. This is a good close for this track with a blazing guitar solo at the end followed by a violin playing a short lead piece.
Lyrics — 8
Richard Thomson provides lead vocals for the band, and he does a respectable job - often through the album he reminds me of Devin Townsend. The backing vocals provided by the rest of the band are perfect for the context of the album. There is absolutely nothing to complain about from a vocal standpoint on the album. I think that Richard Thomson may possibly have become one of my favorite metal vocalists while listening to this album. I don't trust myself to transcribe most of the lyrics accurately, but the lyrics seem to be themed on a science fiction storyline. I felt like the lyrics and vocals were both strong on this album.
Overall Impression — 7
In a lot of ways, Xerath albums sound like the bada-s soundtrack of a bada-s sci-fi movie that I would definitely want to go see. I definitely enjoy the riffs, and I enjoy Richard Thomson's screamed vocals and the clean vocals used for the choruses. I just don't feel as strongly about the finished product that I feel like I should considering how much I like the separate parts. I really enjoyed the songs "2053," "Autonomous," "I Hold Dominion" and "Bleed This Body Clean." I didn't dislike any songs from the album.