(NCS contributor Israel Flanders steps up with his nominations for the year’s two best albums of the year to date. Agree or disagree in the Comments, won’t you?)
Let’s just address something here . . . A ton of kick-ass new music has been unveiled in the year thus far, but some of the new releases have obviously been better than others. While my choices are controversial, I’m going to talk about, IMO, the two most essential albums of 2011 to date: Sylosis‘s Edge Of The Earth and Xerath‘s II.
I know, you’re asking me, “No TesseracT!? No Devin Townsend!?” Believe it or not (given my tastes), I liked Deconstruction, but it just felt like Devin repeating himself and starting on the path to self-parody, and I love One, but it was too little too late, on top of suffering from a syndrome of repetitiveness. With that said, let’s dig into these two albums shall we? I’m not going to go into real depth here; instead, I’m gonna let the songs I’m providing speak for themselves. I will give a brief overview of what you are getting yourself into, though, so let’s get started.
SYLOSIS: EDGE OF THE EARTH
This is the best melodic metal you’re going to hear all year. Sylosis has been well on the way to taking their place amongst the metal greats, but this album surely will seal the deal. What we have here is a combination of old school metalcore, early Metallica, and Forbidden that provides a stunningly vicious, thrashing melodic assault. This band doesn’t play around one bit, wasting no time in laying down the punishment with a plethora (and I do mean a HUGE ASS plethora) of riffs — every single one of them memorable, every single one of them hitting hard with technicality and tasteful execution. (more after the jump . . .)
The drums are tight, to the point, and inhumanly perfect in terms of lining up with the riffs. The vocals of now-vocalist AND lead guitarist Josh Middleton are savage, brutal, yet emotive and filled with power. There is also a hefty amount of SUPERB shredding on this album, buttressing my opinion that Josh Middleton is one of the new up-and-coming guitar heroes. Seriously, do not underestimate this guy — he knows what he’s doing. His style is very legato-oriented, and he has an ability for inserting “mini hooks” into his solo’s that make every single one on this album memorable. Whether it be the trashing, all-out assault of the opener “Procession”, the grooving trudge of “Awakening”, or the emotional ambient style of “Where The Sky Ends”, it’s bound to catch your ear. You’ll be insane if it doesn’t. This album is definitely worth checking out — it really sticks out in today’s scene, as it manages to mesh old school with modernism in a potent way that we aren’t hearing much these days.
Xerath’s II is another stand-out album in metal right now. Anyone hearing the term “Orchestral Djenty Groove Metal” pitched to them for the first time would probably say you were out of your mind, but Xerath has done it anyway and they do it quite excellently. While I did enjoy the band’s first album “I”, it did have its shortcomings. “II” seeks to amend all of that, and I’m proud to announce that it not only succeeds, it’s made Xerath one of the newest metal MVP’s out there today.
The approach of this album is very much along the lines of Fear Factory and SYL, with big walls of sound, machine-gun or open-note groove riffing executed with powerful intensity, all backed up by film-score styled orchestral arrangements behind it. The product here is absolutely immense. This is the most original sounding album I’ve heard all year, to be quite honest.
The vocals of Richard Thomson are very much in the Devin Townsend vein, but more pissed off, more forceful, almost like the shrieks of a death-dealing banshee. The riffing of guitarist Owain Williams is ASTOUNDINGLY simple yet effective. I can’t believe how hard some of these riffs hit, like the verse riff of “Enemy Incited Armageddon” or the bombastic outro to “Unite To Defy”. The drums are locked in tight, the bass has real presence, and the orchestral parts are EXCEPTIONALLY well written. I’ve never heard orchestral music complement metal this well. Ever.
Get this album, as well as the Sylosis — it’s absolutely essential. It’ll be in my top 10 of this year for sure, as well as will Edge Of The Earth. I’ve included 3 songs from each album; if they don’t sell you on these works, I don’t know what will.