Apart from Issues, there’s not a band that better embodies what metal is in the 21st Century than Crossfaith. Like it or not, synthetic elements in heavy music are coming further to the fore on what seems like a daily basis, and Crossfaith have taken them with both hands for a fully coherent blend on 2013’s breakthrough Apocalyze. It was such a smooth mesh of metalcore and EDM that had them marked as ones to watch, but on its follow-up Xeno, a few changes have been made.
The most noticeable one is that the electronics have been turned down a great deal. If Apocalyze did one thing well, it was prove that, while many metalcore bands incorporate electronic elements into their sound, very few do it in the same equal ratio as Crossfaith. On Xeno though, they seem to have regressed and become lost in the crowd by using their once prominent dance elements as mere accompaniments. There’s nothing wrong with the actual songs though – their actual songwriting ability has improved immensely, and Xeno contains some of the best songs of their career. The likes of the title track and Devil’s Party nail the blend of brutality and massive choruses that modern metalcore has become known for, while Ghost In The Mirror could be a glitchier Beartooth track (in no small part due to the band’s frontman Caleb Shomo featuring on the track). There’s even a bit of experimentation from way out in left field – Tears Fall is a skyscraping, Bullet For My Valentine-style power ballad, and instrumental closer Astral Heaven fuses sweeping orchestral movements with zipping synths and pulsating beats for a true masterpiece.
If this had been what Crossfaith had been doing from the off, they’d be scene leaders by now. But as excellent as the songs are, they don’t feel like Crossfaith songs. The once-trademark electronics have been pushed too far into the background to make the same potent impact, and the jolt of futuristic-ness is nowhere near as prominent. It leads to tracks like Vanguard and Paint It Black bordering on generic, something that could never have been said about Crossfaith in the past.
Apart from the pure EDM euphoria of intro track System X, the only song that really manages to keep the balance they once had is Wildfire, a collaboration with Skindred frontman Benji Webbe, and it’s here where they truly reach untouchable territory. A combination of searing riffs and pounding dance beats (the onus being on the latter), it’s the kind of song Crossfaith have become known for, namely massive party tunes that aren’t big or clever, but are custom made to start some rowdiness. There are also some truly genius lyrics as well, and for a band who have been known for their admittedly schlocky lyrical skills (of which this album does have its fair share), that’s hardly something to be looked over. It’s the best song on the album by quite a fair distance, and also serves to highlight how uncharacteristic the rest of the album sounds.
It feels strange to use that as a criticism, because the songs on Xeno are undoubtedly the strongest of Crossfaith’s career. But even so, there isn’t much to differentiate them from the myriad of other Warped Tour metalcore bands. Ultimately, that’s Xeno‘s damning fault. It’s not a bad album – far from it – but it largely feels like Crossfaith selling themselves short, and not producing the same dazzling stock as they have the potential to. A step back has never done too much harm, but it feels as though on here, Crossfaith may have taken a bit too much of one.
For fans of: Of Mice & Men, Motionless In White, Coldrain
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Xeno’ by Crossfaith is released on 18th September on UNFD.