A plug for a class album - Xerath III18 Sep 2014
First off – the interest in this album will probably be limited to those who like their metal heavy, complex and symphonic. This is also less an album review than a trip down memory lane for me…
I’m not much of a music consumer these days – my Spotify subscription more or less caters to my day-to-day listening habits – though I’ll happily fork out for something a bit special. For me anyway, a new Xerath album will always be a bit special because I have been lucky enough to follow the journey from its inception.
Xerath’s original guitarist, Andy Phillips, and I became friends when we were at sixth form college 11 years ago – bonding instantly over a mutual love of Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal, a guitarist we both thought, criminally, nobody else knew about (but who, incidentally, went on to join Guns N’ Roses a few years later). I always admired Andy for his capacity to push himself to become very good at something even if he has to teach it to himself; it’s a quality I think has always been shared by the band as a whole, and I think is evident from their albums and how they have progressed over the years. I remember well hearing the short experimental clips of Meshuggah-style riffs set to an filmscore-style orchestral backing, and how they evolved and were polished into what eventually became the band’s first album, I, in 2009.
Ultimately Andy decided a career in music was not for him, but the band still carries on in much the same mindset. I have to admit that the second album, II, while a more polished and professional sound than the debut album, concerned me a little bit as the interplay between the orchestral stuff and the heavy riffs seemed like it had become something of an afterthought. But I needn’t have worried, because III is as good a representation of what they do best as they’ve ever made – it’s ambitious, it’s complex, it’s loud, it’s different, and it’s excellent.
Three things stand out for me in this album. First, the production is superb, as good as you’ll find on any other album out there. Second, they have a new guitarist by the name of Conor McGouran, whose chops are matched only by that fantastic tone. Lastly, but by no means least, Richard Thomson’s vocals have become more and more impressive over the years and, based on other reviews I’ve seen on the internet, is now deservedly drawing comparison with the great Devin Townsend.
I can only really summarise the album as: tremendous, well worth the £8 it cost me from iTunes and well worth the uncomfortable wait after hearing the spine-tingling teaser over a month ago. Which, incidentally, I’ve shared below. If you’ve not heard of the band, then I recommend giving the teaser a listen. I’m fairly sure after listening to it you’ll know whether or not you want to hear the rest of the album.