50 Unheralded Albums from 2011

Xerath: IIXerathII (Candlelight, 5/3/11)

Xerath: “Unite to Defy”

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In 2009, English symphonic-metal band Xerath delivered an emphatic debut that, according to Wikipedia, intended to “combine film-score composition with syncopated guitar rhythms and crushing metal grooves.”

It’s a spot-on description of an outstanding metal album, but the quartet’s sophomore release, II, is a fuller realization of the band’s potential. Song development, melodic/harmonic interplay, and polyrhythms — each is even stronger than on Xerath’s debut. There are a few intermittent bursts of reverberated clean singing, but none succumbs to cheesy metal trappings. The rest of II is full of Meshuggah-style “djent” intensity, careening single-note guitar riffs, furious drum fills and blast beats, and assailing screams — all joined by eerie symphonic accompaniments.