Released by: Test Your Metal Records
Genre: Symphonic, Black, and Death Metal
Nassaru – Vocals and guitar
Tuurm – Lead guitar and secondary vocalist
Xolotl – Bass and backing vocals…
Sorgiem – Lead guitar and backing vocals
Droth – Drummer
Rei – Female vocals
“The Last Arbiter”
“Srai ‘The Demon Of Erring’”
“The Wayfarer Of Tymeer”
“Watchers Of Xan”
“Apathy Of The Immortal”
“I Am Pestilence”
“In The Hollows Of Pathos”
“Secrets Of The Third Tribe”
“Harvesting The Elders Genome”
I’m late to the game reviewing this album, but not late to experience the awesomeness that is Xael (pronounced Zi-el.) Based around Burke County NC (known mostly for its old state mental hospital,) the band is a perfect blend of Symphonic, Black, and Death Metal. Formed from former and current members of Rapheumet’s Well, Enthean, and Cynonite, the band have endeavored to take the Extreme Metal World by storm with their unique blend of music and Science Fiction with their debut The Last Arbiter.
If I were to give a one-word summation of how this album is, that word would be intense. Much like Rapheumet’s Well, but not in the same manner stylistically outside some minor similarities, they have managed to take a brutally aggressive music and meld it with these lush orchestrations, haunting choral and lilting vocals, combined with this ancient chanting style that combined all together gives The Last Arbiter a very futuristic, otherworldly sound. What I find most intriguing about this album is the concept is deeply thought out. Unlike a lot of bands of this genre, they go for more of a cerebral, esoteric approach to songwriting. Not only do the lyrics take the listener on a journey, the music does as well. The juxtaposition of ethereal sounds and driving aggression create a sound all their own. Band founder Nassaru handles the guitar and vocals, while also acting as the primary storyteller. The three guitar assault, adding Tuurm and Sorgiem, layers the sound so deeply, each player adding their own voice to the music through savage riffs and amazing solos. The groove of the sound is laid down by bassist Xolotl and drummer Doth, while the beautiful voice of Rei swirls perfectly within it all. Due to its deep conceptual themes, it’s best to ingest the whole album instead of in pieces, yet each piece makes perfect stand-alone songs too.
I still have a lot of love for Rapheumet’s Well, but as a nice secondary project, Xael is top notch. Superior musicianship, thought-provoking themes, and masterful songs that craft a powerful story, Xael is a band I will be watching closely for further activity, be it live or new music. The Last Arbiter has such great potential to launch them towards bigger things in the future… or at least I hope that for them. Though it is a type of music that tends to have limited appeal, there is so much compelling to what they do I can’t help but think that if people opened their minds a little bit, they might discover just how exceptional Xael are.
Written by: Chris Martin