Xerxes - Falling Leaves


Year of Release: 1997
Label: self-released
Catalog Number: n/a
Format: CD
Total Time: 37:01:00

This is another of those EPs that I paid full price for, and again it was well worth it to me. I'd hate to keep having to pay out like this all the time, as I'd have a collection of EPs and an empty wallet to show for it. In the case of XerXes, it's actually 37 minutes long, so you don't feel too bad about the EP thing.

Once again, I had only heard of this band through bad hype, bad reviews, and downright "stay away from their first demo" e-mails. When I saw that this band was putting out another disc, an EP at that, I quickly dismissed it. Mike "the man" Campbell sent me samples from it, and I was blown away instantly. Again, it's a travesty and a truly amazing oddity that bands like this aren't snapped up by some label, even a small one. If not for their musical prowess, at least for their creativity and approach to what I feel is prog metal, but this band approaches it in one of those odd ways that make it very difficult to describe. The bottom line here is if you are on the everlasting search for that "unique" or "creative" style that sounds like no one else, then look no more. This band serves up something for everyone, from prog metal, to prog rock, to New Age and everything in between.

THE STYLE:

I'm stumped to death on this one. I want to say prog metal, but it's much more than that, and incorporates many styles into their music and approach. The complement of instrument sounds alone make this stand alone in a world of clones and sound-alikes. Take some Porcupine Tree styled Prog Rock, inject it with some New Age sounds and emotions, throw in a twin guitar approach, add tons of New Age sounding keyboards, that almost sound like a band unto itself, and make it heavy at times enough to please the metal inside, and you have this band.

The song structures are way out of the ordinary, that range from a dreamy, smooth-flowing melody to all of a sudden changing to the twin guitar driven sound that gives it nice punch. Along the way, the band launches into a Celtic type song complete with xylophone sounds and"make it sound like fairies running around a campfire" style.

At other times, the band starts out with a harp sound, lulling the listener briefly into a daze, and then launching into a full blown twin guitar, all out prog metal fest that reminds me oh so much of Payne's Gray in the approach. This band makes sure that every base is covered, and there is certainly something here for everyone, you just have to be willing to endure many styles and sounds just like Payne's Gray offers up. The music ranges from the dreamy, New Age sounds to the heavy, complex, almost technical approach right before your very ears. This band takes the word "progressive" to new heights.

THE BAND:

With so many sounds, it's hard to believe that there are only 5 guys making all of this racket. It sounds like an orgy of instruments that range from harps, to mandolins, to smoking electric guitars, to trumpet sounding synths, and beyond ..... ths band stops at nothing in trying to create just about every sound on the planet. Clearly, the guitars are the focal point of this band, but that's because they don't just play some rhythm chords while the keyboards back them up. These guys are constantly playing lead runs, only in different patterns while the keyboards head into another direction. This might sound complicated and technical and you wonder what the hell I'm doing digging this, but let me tell you that warm melodies abound on this disc, and this band does not disappoint in the warmth dept. I'd have to say that every musician in this band is more than well schooled at his instrument, I'd have to go a bit further and call these guys technicians. If not for the complex arrangements they play, then for the way that they approach these arrangements, truly fascinating.

The drummer I can finally say is excellent. Effortlessly pounding out strange tempos, I wonder how drummers hold a beat to music as complicated as this. Again, don't let the word complicated scare you off, because I am digging this to the max, so that gives you an idea of how different this approach must be.

The keyboard player is a world unto himself, creating more sounds than one man should be allowed to, he definitely gives this band a huge, epic sound. From soaring synths, to backdropped walls of sound, to xylophones, to harps, and so much more, this guy thrives on making you think there's an orchestra helping them out along the way. The bass player is more than talented, keeping up with all of this madness must wreak havoc on the fingers. He does not stay still or on one note long enough to get a rest. Not to mention the fact that the bass player doubles as the singer.

THE VOCALS:

This is where the disc will be loved or hated, and not because this guy has a bad voice. If you know what Michael Sadler of Saga sounds like, try to imagine him singing at a lower tone, and you have the sound of this singer. A very pleasant voice, although he never strays out of the low tone. The problem some may have is how they recorded the vocals. They've put the vox equal in the mix with the instruments, making it a bit hard to hear the words, but it's very effective for some reason. It would appear that they deem the voice a separate instrument and give it equal levels in the mix. Either that or someone just plain ole screwed up here, but I find that hard to believe given the talent and sound of this band. This is a small complaint, and the ear adjusts to this quickly.

THE PRODUCTION:

Absolutely stunning. For an EP, you'd think you were getting a sub-par product, but the sound of this disc makes the full purchase price well worth it. Other than the lower mix in the vox area, everything else about this sound shines brilliantly. The drums are the standout, blasting through the speakers so crisp and clear that you can picture the sticks hitting the high hat each time.

The guitars are way up in the mix, and actually recorded with quite the high tones. They just scream out at you. The bottom is punchy, and full of boom, but not enough to muddy the sound. There's not much to dissect here because this is an absolutely superb recording.

THE COMMENTS:

One of the better EPs I've ever picked up. This band thrives on creativity and uniqueness, and I know there are lots of people out there always in search of that type of a band. In a world of Paynes Gray, Pain of Salvation, and Heaven's Cry, there is also room for XerXes. I believe that this band is onto someting unique, and I only wish that it was a full recording. For some reason, when bands put out great demos or EPs like this one, either the follow up disc is terrible, or the band breaks up. Call me pessimistic, but that's a trend that I've seen too many times. I hope that this band sticks it out long enough to make that full length gem, but I wonder how the hell they will top this one in terms of creativity.

The band hails from Switzerland, I believe, of all places .... It's great to see bands of this caliber popping up from all sides of the world, and with music this good, it's a great sign that progressive music is finding it's way throughout the world, and that means a long shelf life for a great genre.

It appears though XerXes did split - ed. 9/05


Tracklisting:
The Gate (6:33) / Spending My Time In Illusions (6:45) / Sam Hain (16:07) / Falling Leaves (7:36)

Musicians:
Adrian Moser - vocals, bass
Michael Cueni - guitar
Christian Moser - guitar
Martin Fringeli - drums
Jose Espasandin - keyboards

Discography:
Beyond My Imagination (1994)
Falling Leaves (1997)

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin CH

Added: July 25th 1999
Reviewer: Larry "LarryD" Daglieri

Hits: 1291
Language: english

  

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