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Xael - Bloodtide Rising

Bloodtide Rising
by Chris Hawkins at 29 March 2021, 5:49 AM

It is truly rare that I am shocked anymore but the exception to the rule in this case is a band called XAEL.  Formed back in 2017 here in my home state of beautiful, scenic, first-in-flight NC, the band have now released their second full-length titled “Bloodtide Rising” via Pavement Entertainment.  Yeah, Pavement is releasing Metal again.  The band is categorized as Symphonic Death Metal and it seems odd, I have not previously heard of them.  Regardless, members have been involved in other projects that do ring a bill, namely WEHRWOLFE and NILE.  What follows is a pristinely recorded album of nine tracks that resemble more of a hybrid of NILE and BELPHEGOR with elements of the more experimental side of Norwegian Black Metal than someone like SYNTHGOD APOCALYPSE or whatever other band is supposed to be the pick of this suddenly crowded genre.  No, XAEL keep things interesting.

The first track is an extended intro titled “Suun Rai Aru (Passion Begets Ruin)” that is, yes, a mouthful, but also expertly crafted full of clever turns of melody and phrasing.  After one is deceptively lulled into a false sense of security, the second track, “As Decreed – The Law of Virul Athmar” kicks in with a crushing melee of Blackened Death Metal.  When dual leads enter crying a weeping yet soaring melody, things next shift back into all out brutality.  Such is the course of much of the material on this album.  Insanely thick, chugging riffs are interspersed with more frantic affairs.  It is a sound that slightly flirts with Technical Death Metal, but the breadth of the music mandates that pigeonholing this band is an arduous, if not impossible task.

The production is what truly aids in the efficacy of the music.  The guitar tracks are rich and varied from crisp acoustic sounds such as the beginning of the third track, “The Waste of Dreadrift,” to the pulverizing, crushing rhythms that populate the entirety of the album.  What is thankfully handled with the utmost care is the judicious use of keyboards and string instruments.  My affinity for Classical music makes me a fickle listener when approaching most “Symphonic” projects, but this is one that is not only daring but tasteful as well.  What also helps make for a much more interesting ride is the mixture of clean and growling vocals.  At certain points, the clean vocals reminded me of Simen Hestnaes, that prized element on some of the most potent, experimentally free-thinking albums from bands like ARCTURUS and BORKNAGAR among others – hell, he was the only thing that kept me interested in DIMMU BORGIR after “Spiritual Black Dimensions”.  The drums are blazing throughout and tightly locked in with the thunderous sway of the bass.

Other highlights on this album include the fourth track, “Srai – The Demon of Erring,” a wild, fantastical ride through mayhem and mystery.  With the way the music is orchestrated, it is obvious these guys have done their homework listening to mid eighteenth century Romantic-era composers.  The clean vocals are yet again hugely impressive.  The track that perhaps stood out to me most was the sixth, the title track.  This is the song with that riff to play for your friends when you tell them about this killer new band that slipped under the radar from NC.  Brutal.

XAEL has been a most welcome surprise.  The album is loaded with top-shelf musicianship, out of the box arrangements, and unbridled yet focused creativity.  It is clear from the material that this is a band that knows how to function as a highly efficient unity.  Hopefully, shows will start up again soon because I would definitely go see these guys.  Don’t sleep on this!

Songwriting: 8
Originality:  8
Memorability: 8
Production: 8

4 Star Rating

1. Suun Rai Aru (Passion Begets Violence)
2. As Decreed – The Law of Vuul Athmar
3. The Waste of Dreadrift
4. Srai – The Demon of Erring
5. Dark World Mirrors
6. Bloodtide Rising
7. The Red Odyssey
8. The Red Odyssey (Part Two) Temple of the Sky
9. The Odium and the Contrition Master
Sorgiem – Guitars, Backing Vocals
Nassaru – Vocals, Drums, Keyboards
Brad Parris –Bass, Vocals
Chris Hathcock – Guitars, Vocals, Percussion
Joshua Niemeyer – Vocals, Cello
Record Label: Pavement Entertainment


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Edited 18 April 2021

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