WORDS: Jack Fermor-Worrell
Mixing electronic elements with heavy metal isn’t exactly a new concept, but Japanese rave-metallers CROSSFAITH are perhaps the best example in recent memory to do so successfully. Their genre-bending cover of Omen by THE PRODIGY brought the group huge success online and essentially kick-started their career outside of their homeland. Now onto their fourth studio album, the Osaka quintet are looking to take things up another notch with Xeno.
System X opens proceedings with an orchestrated string section that sounds almost like it’s been taken from a Hans Zimmer soundtrack. Things are soon interrupted though, as the powerful title-track Xeno delivers a bombastic anthem of a song, the likes of which it feels the band have been building up to for some time now.
Raise Your Voice brings an almost FIVE FINGER DEATH PUNCH-esque stomp, with drummer Tatsuya Amano in particular, on excellent form. Unrelentingly fast-paced and ridiculously catchy, it’s a simple but effective song.
Living up to its name quite well, Devil’s Party brings yet more riffs, and an even bigger chorus that simply oozes melody, the likes of which have rarely been heard in music this heavy.
Ghost In The Mirror sees Ken teaming up with BEARTOOTH frontman Caleb Shomo for what can only be described as an absolute riot. Monstrously big, and essentially a ready-made single, it’s likely to become one of the album’s biggest successes – and deservedly so.
Dystopia is another up-tempo rocker which injects high-pitched stabs of synth into proceedings as Amano and guitarist Kazuki Takemura seemingly competing to see who can create the most unholy racket possible.
Things take another shift completely leftfield with Wildfire, which features a brilliant guest appearance from SKINDRED’s Benji Webbe. Musically, it sounds like an early 2000s rap-rock song crossed with the sort of electronic beat you’d expect to hear from DJs like David Guetta. This catchiness might not be to everyone’s taste, but it’s hard to imagine anything but absolute chaos when this track makes it to the band’s live set.
Tears Fall could easily be considered the most unexpected thing CROSSFAITH have ever done. Beginning with bright-sounding melodic guitars, the track is essentially a ballad – albeit one with the band’s unique stamp. Koei’s vocals really shine on this song, and leave the question whether we’ll be seeing more of this style in future.
There’s a few moments in Paint It Black where the vocals begin to sound strangely like polarising frontman Andy Biersack, and sadly it makes the track the weakest moment of Xeno. It also feels extremely basic guitar-wise too, with riffs that sound like little more than sub-par METALLICA cast-offs.
Vanguard redeems things somewhat, by adding what can only be described as elements of SLIPKNOT into their already-chaotic sound. A perfectly pit-ready call-to-arms, it should become a live staple soon enough.
Yet another anthem-in-the-making, Calm The Storm takes a page from the book of LINKIN PARK, specifically sounding more like some of their more recent material. Here the harsh electronics are dialled down to the bare minimum, giving the less harsh vocal sections a chance to shine, amidst the chaos of the rest of the track.
Closing out the album is Astral Heaven – a track quite unlike anything CROSSFAITH have ever released before. Clocking in at just over five minutes long, the track is essentially an instrumental electronic piece that brings back some of the film soundtrack qualities that System X utilised. It’s certainly a unique way to finish off an album, and it ultimately goes on for just a bit too long – but since everything proceeding it is so good, that can be somewhat overlooked.
What becomes very clear upon listening to Xeno is that CROSSFAITH definitely know how to write pit-ready anthems. The likes of Ghost In The Mirror and Raise Your Voice display perfectly just how far the band have progressed since their debut, whilst the stadium-ready choruses of songs like Wildfire hint at exactly where the band are aiming to go next. One thing is certain – for CROSSFAITH, the only way is up.