I think anyone would take a second glance at Xerath. Technical groove metal doused in progressive influences and orchestral arrangements is a fairly luring equation like a trail of candy, at least based on my perception. "II," though, isn't all it's cracked up to be. Xerath's quantum-molesting calculability brings nothing to 'hook' the listener, while the progressive and orchestral elements hide from the 'djent' madness chugging and carelessly running head-first into odd nonsense. For those of you that have no idea what in the hell that means, imagine the sound that comes from Meshuggah-ish riffs; they apparently make an onomatopoeia (at least according to the pseudo-genre's frontrunners) along the lines of 'djent.' It's weird, because I usually hear something similar to 'sh*t.' Strange.
Anyway, Xerath really has no use for their outlandish influences. Most of "II" resides in a world of chugging riffs usually molded into polyrhythm clusters and off-key time signatures while someone shouts over them and some perplexing percussion. Xerath makes an effort to include a variety of noises and riffs, but everything ends up doing the Meshuggah jig regardless of the group's pace or supposed direction. The so-called "progressive" or "orchestral" elements appear in semi-expected guitar scales and orchestral instrumentals which usually miss the overall mark that "II" must be trying to channel. It kind of makes me question why they even have the orchestration or progressive style at all.
I know I'm sounding predominantly negative, but there are some really outstanding moments. "Unite to Defy" and "Reform Part III" are superb pieces of musical incalculability, making me at least appreciate some of this djent junk. "Nuclear Self Eradication" does a mighty fine job too, but nothing else makes a vital impression, although some of Xerath's sudden solos are enjoyable as well. Chugs and shouts here, chugs and shouts there, pseudo-orchestra here, pseudo- orchestra there, mediocre stuff here, mediocre stuff there...now picture that for an hour. Everything flies by in a whirling storm of maddening algorithms and sub-par craziness, and I'm left feeling completely untouched. Bored too, of course, yet still untouched.
But hey, maybe I'm just an asshole. I don't know, the constant chugging and abrasive rhythms don't hit my pleasure switch. On a positive note, I'd say "II" has a lot more flare and willingness than most of this 'djent' stuff, so give Xerath a shot if you enjoy Meshuggah-ish stuff. Everyone else: steer clear. Something that looks so bombastic and colorful on paper should be bombastic and colorful on the ears too, and that's where Xerath ultimately fails. Reasonably a damn shame overall; I usually love orchestral arrangements in metal, but this? I can't say anything about "II" except it's quite ordinary and very humdrum.