I'm not really sure what's going on, but France's underground has been producing some seriously great metal lately. A few weeks ago we got Hybrid Sheep's Hail to the Beast. This time around it's Exocrine, hailing from Bordeaux, who has just dropped their latest record Ascension. The opening track of this album, "Terra," makes two things very clear. First of all, these guys really know what they're doing. Second, they REALLY like science fiction. The track makes it's rounds through the modern tech death staples within a matter of seconds: synth-ey robot noises and percussion loops, brutal gutteral vox, flashy arpeggiated guitars and an instrumental break. The track really starts the album off on a high note and makes you want to see what else the band has to offer.
The second track, "Alpha," features one of my favorite sections on the album. At 2:48, the song breaks into a super tough riff reminiscent of early 2000s hardcore-influenced deathgrind. This inclusion is what really turned me on to Exocrine. No matter how technical a death metal song is, it's just not that brutal if you can't imagine yourself beating someone to death while listening to it. I feel like this is lost on a lot of tech death bands; ones who are more concerned with flashy guitar playing than making really brutal riffs. Exocrine expertly dances this line and compliments their technical wankery with an intensity that will make you want to smash faces.
The album continues in this fashion and really delivers from beginning to end. The use of synths and electronic sections throughout the record is done tastefully and accents the compositions. This is especially apparent in the intro to "The Fall," and the aforementioned "Terra." The vocals, taken track by track, might be considered monotone by some. However, when viewed within the context of the entire album they are an impressive exercise in range and execution. The approach is really all over the place, and does a great job of delivering consistently interesting performances.
The high point of Ascension comes in the form of the album closer, "Empyre." This song is equal parts brutality and tasteful dynamics. It takes the listener through a journey which concludes in a very atypical melodic outro section. I can't say enough good things about this part. The instrumental and vocal lines instill feelings of extinguished hope and resignation in a way that few songs can. I'm not sure I've ever heard a tech death band that taps into this nerve quite as well as Exocrine. You're left with a feeling that the album has come to a fitting conclusion, and the only choice remaining is to start it again from the beginning. To summarize, Exocrine is what would happen if Dying Fetus and Necrophagist fucked on a MIDI keyboard and had a child that grew up to write Star Trek Fan Fiction. And if that isn't worth a listen, I don't know what is.
Favorites: Alpha, Empyre
- Old Dirty Dan