This is my single most anticipated album of the year. I’ve been tracking the progress on this one for about a year. Exivious’ first release was something I just couldn’t get enough of. It was unlike anything I’d heard before. It was complicated in every way imaginable yet still had a great groove to it. It was modern jazz played by a metal band (as opposed to your run of the mill metal band with jazz influences).
Now that you know my bias coming into this thing I’ll tell you that I’m trying to be as level-headed in this review as I can. I’m fully aware that my expectations and faulty memory about what the original album was may have led me to have too high of expectations, making a great album seem not as great.
Before getting on to why I’m disappointed let’s start with something else. Every track has a lot of great stuff in it. I’d still say this is a really great album well worth getting if you liked their first one. Exivious has a sound that you just can’t find anywhere else and they maintain that consistency here.
There’s still quite a bit of great jazzy sounds, chord progressions, and solos. As I said, basically every song still has the Exivious complicated edge to it. Take “Triguna” for instance. There’s a cool soundscape done with non-standard guitar tones. They use some pitch bending in their chromatic ascending progression to really create the effect of moving upwards. The time signature gets all whacky in part too. This might be my favorite track. They use a great range of dynamics and the songs crescendo to climaxes and decrescendo back to some softer stuff giving a lot of variety and well thought out compositions.
And holy crap talking about solos. One of the best solos on any “metal” album I’ve heard happens in “Deeply Woven.” During a crazy thrashing bit this weird sound comes in faintly. You’re not sure what it is. Then gradually it comes to the front. You realize it is a (soprano?) sax. Jonas Knutsson just kills it on this track with his crazy soloing.
Where does my disappointment come in? Well, it kind of comes from my Is Progressive Metal Progressive post. I mentioned at the beginning that Exivious is basically a jazz outfit on metal instruments. I don’t really get that feel on this album. For the most part it feels like a djent album with a lot of jazz influence. The emphasis has changed somewhat (or I’m just mis-remembering the first album).
The first track has the majority of it as this incredibly static djenty thing that could be lifted right off of a Tesseract album or something. The beginning and end are really great, and I get what they were trying to do with a slow build to the climactic ending. It just feels so overdone and the key word that I’ll keep coming back to is static. If I was feeling the groove more and could get into the build I think it would be fine, but I can’t.
There are huge chunks of songs all over this album where they go harmonically static and the song falls flat for me. I just completely lose interest. What is strange is that sometimes the soloing is pretty interesting (like the early part of “Open”), but that lack of motion by the rest of the band to back it up just rubs me the wrong way for some reason.
This isn’t accidental. It can’t be. These guys are just so great at what they do that something like this could not have been unintentional. They did it for a reason, and I can imagine some potential reasons like highlighting the soloing better rather than detracting with a mess of complicated stuff from the rest of the band. Again in “Immanent” there is some freaking amazing rhythmic stuff happening, but the harmonic language feels extremely static.
Anyway, I admit that I had the same exact reaction to The Ocean earlier this year, and with more listens I found that what I thought was static was actually really interesting. I also admit that strictly speaking some of these parts are not harmonically static, they just feel that way to me. I will continue to listen to this for awhile. Overall, it is still a fantastic album that any fan of progressive metal should love. For now I’m giving it a 7.5/10.
Here’s a sample: