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Exess – Deus Ex Machina Award winner

Deus Ex Machina
by Joseph Brewer at 03 June 2020, 6:57 PM

I’m not ashamed to admit that when I first fired up “Deus Ex Machina” by Swiss newcomers EXESS, I immediately wrote it off as another boring soft metal band. Their single, “Not An Eternal Day,” starts the album off, and at first, nothing stood out for me. It wasn’t until I continued on in the album that I started picking up on certain musical choices that EXESS makes that were very intriguing. Little elements that they’ve incorporated into their sound that elevate it above the average album that I was at first expecting. Before long, I started the album over and “Not An Eternal Day” took on a whole new life and I started obsessively listening to it again and again.

EXESS was formed in 2016 by primary composer and drummer Alan Montanari. His goal was to form a rock band that transcended one genre alone by including elements of pop, metal, and prog in each and every song. He recruited guitarist Stéphane “Front” Froidevaux, who was interested in many of the same values. Neither were newcomers to the music scene having been part of several bands in the past. What they then wanted was a feminine sound to front the band that would be able to push the boundaries of their music and chose singer Céline Bart. Lastly, with an idea that their musical influence would be centered on groove, they recruited a more than capable bassist David Pauli to bring that punch. In terms of production, EXESS succeeds in balancing the sounds from each component of the band. Pauli on bass is never drowned out. In fact, since the foundation of so many of their songs is a heavy groove rhythm, the bass often shines and carries that load for the band.

Not An Eternal Day” kicks off the album and brings together all of the elements that EXESS does best. Strong, groovy metal throughout, soft serenading moments, and a blistering finish. I had trouble determining why they focus on calling themselves “groove metal” until I made the connection between the prominent, groovy bass lines from Pauli. Bart shines, not only on this song, but on the entire album. Her voice is high and sweet and melodic. The vocal melodies she’s written are addicting and stay with you long after the song ends. I also appreciate that her voice sounds very raw, natural, and polished; not necessarily overproduced to be perfect. Not that she would need it as her tone is naturally warm and works well with the band. The only thing I would expect from Bart is a few more moments of power or aggression. This is a metal band after all, so not every song can be coated in honey.

It goes without saying though that the partnership and songwriting of Montanari and Front is what makes this album exceptional. Each song is unique and exceptional, bringing different enjoyable moments to the forefront. The big “aha!” moment for me came when I did a bit of research on the band and found an interesting tidbit about guitarist Front. Front focuses his playing almost exclusively on melody and rhythm while rarely playing solos. I absolutely love that philosophy and wish more bands would adopt that. While there’s nothing wrong with a fantastic guitar solo, I often gloss over them, especially when there is a dedicated solo in nearly every song on an album. I can get behind what Front and EXESS do instead: breakdowns. In nearly every song, whether it be a sweet ballad or a more rocking tune, there is an absolutely devastating breakdown that is perfectly executed. Front takes great care in adjusting his guitar sound to match the vibe of the song and is not shy to rip that guitar open to a full roar when the moment comes. Take “Feel The Right Hand” for example. The first two thirds of the song is sweet and melodic. But that last third of the song is fantastically brutal.

Overall, I am extremely impressed with “Deus Ex Machina” and found plenty of reason to return to the album over and over again while writing this review. EXESS seems to have discovered the perfect balance between groove, soft rock, and heavy metal. Just when you think you have them figured out, there is always something new to get wonderfully lost in. Just wait until you hear “Nothing Is Left”. I think I audibly gasped at the killer switch in tone, but quickly approved. Definitely check this album out if you’re a fan of beautiful metal that rocks extremely hard at the same time.

Favorite Songs: “Not An Eternal Day”, “Feel The Right Hand”, “Nothing Is Left”

Songwriting: 9
Musicianship: 10
Memorability: 10
Production: 9

5 Star Rating

1. Not An Eternal Day
2. Find A Shelter
3. The Letter
4. Chrysalis
5. Feel The Right Hand
6. Pay No Mind
7. Bittersweet Lullaby
8. Nothing Is Left
9. Sleeping Satellite
Céline Bart – Vocals
Stéphane “Front” Froidevaux – Guitars
David Pauli – Bass
Alan Montanari – Drums
Record Label: Fastball Music


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Edited 26 September 2020

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