There are some bands you can count on to do what they always do. Xerath is one of those bands. The key is to always make what you do still be interesting. Fortunately, Xerath never fail at that either. The band have numbered each release, which symbolically tells the listener it's another round of what you know and love. "III" is Xerath doing their unique blend of symphonic metal and progressive metal. Imagine a metal band in a street fight with an orchestra and you have a good idea what Xerath is about. Where other bands use an orchestra just to highlight the music, Xerath make the orchestra an active part of the music. They could easily change the orchestra to keyboards or even a second guitar and it wouldn't change what the band does overall. Fortunately, using the orchestra as they do adds a cinematic quality to their music. At times, "III" sounds like a metal version of a James Bond movie soundtrack: big, dramatic and epic.
"III" starts out with the first single, "I Hold Dominion," which has a very cool, massive intro that leads to a typically groove-laden song, with the screaming vocals of Richard Thomson and sledgehammer riffs of Conor McGouran. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Xerath follow that advice on "III," which has some massive catchy songs, yet they're still as extreme as ever. "I Hunt The Weak" is obviously not a terribly kind song, yet adding clean vocals to the chorus make it a very memorable and singable song. "Passenger" and "Witness" follow the same pattern: very heavy, excellent grooves, orchestra battles and a hooky chorus on both. Both songs are among the best on the album.
One major event since the "II" album was that Richard Thomson started a progressive rock outfit called The Custodian. The Custodian are miles away from what Xerath sound like, yet they still have the same ambitious nature. The question for me was would Richard and the guys use any of what he did with The Custodian on "III"? The answer is yes, indeed. On "III" there are more complex arrangements than on previous releases, plus the last two tracks, "Veil - Part 1 and 2," are epic, cinematic, progressive rock at its best. The Custodian allowed Richard to expand his palette and bring into Xerath elements that would allow them to grow and expand their sound.
The artwork for "III" is up to the high standard set by both of Xerath's previous releases and is one of the best covers of 2014. "III" will appeal to all existing Xerath fans and hopefully add more that appreciate their brand of cinematic progressive metal. "III" is one of the best albums I have heard this year.