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Exocrine – Maelstrom

by Santiago Puyol at 02 August 2020, 7:47 PM

French Technical Death Metal band EXOCRINE released their fourth record this 2020, a seemingly lovecraftian, deep-sea inspired concept record, filled with crazy and brutal musicianship. This is the follow-up to 2018’s "Molten Giant." Taking a couple of cues from CYNIC, the band mashes elements of Jazz and Avant-Garde into their proggy songwriting, something truly evident on this release.

The title track opens up firing at all cylinders with frantic drumming, chaotic and meaty riffing and noisy growling. "Maelstrom" is the sound of pure mayhem translated into song. The structure of the track shifts, with proggy and theatrical flourishes such as layered clean vocals, sci-fi synthesizers and melodic soloing, amidst time signature changes and technically complex Jordy Besse pounds hard when the band drops the ball and goes for a breakdown.

"The Kraken" conjures the titular beast via breakneck speed musicianship and dramatic synths and electronic bits. Guitarist Sylvain Octor-Perez gets to show-off his impeccable technique on every solo. There is a feel of Classic Metal underneath the undeniable modern composition. That sense of melodrama, darkness and folklore influence from early metal bands seem to infiltrate the songwriting of EXOCRINE if not their sound.

Nice “watery” effects applied to the synthesizers and guitar on the aptly titled "Wall Of Water." Things get a little Djent-y here on the breaks between verses. An insanely complex banger. Some interesting soft-loud dynamics, with a dash of Post-Metal flavours. A random trumpet bit at the end of the track is a fun touch.

Symphonic and theatrical could be good adjectives to describe "Abyssal Flesh." Its synthesized strings, 8-bit sounding organ or electric piano and horn stabs add many interesting colours to a very focused and strong track. The closest the band gets to CYNIC on the album. Very melodic yet still technically impressive track that shows an amazing range in spite of being the shortest track on the record, a little over three minutes and a half.

"Orbital Station" doubles down on the electronic elements with tons of synth and synth-sounding elements. Its groovy middle-section is one of the most accessible moments on the record, yet the song as a whole is an always-shifting, frenzied affair. It slaps hard as it goes into t

Théo Gendron lays down a jazzy, bossa nova-tingled groove on the softer sections of "The Wreck", bringing CYNIC to mind once again, but also some modern Progressive Rock bands such as THANK YOU SCIENTIST or THE REIGN OF KINDO. It is an impressive feat, once again a surprise amidst the more traditionally chaotic Progressive Death Metal style. Once again, the trumpet makes an appearance, providing another exotic solo. It even slightly reprises the coda of "Wall Of Water," connecting the moving pieces of this lovecraftian concept record.

EXOCRINE shines more when they take the oddball, Avant-Garde approach, as they manage to escape more explored routes. Another perfect example of that is the inclusion of Spanish-tingled acoustic guitar playing on "Starvation Project" or they take a couple of cues from Jazz Fusion outfits on the more melodic sections of "The Chosen One."

Closer "Galactic Gods" introduces dark piano playing, moving even further into theatrical territory. It even gets groovy, at least until all hell breaks loose again. Being a little over six minutes, it explores many ideas and moods, allowing the band to fully flex their muscles. The record closes with a lengthy, dark instrumental jam where everybody seems to be having fun.

"Maelstrom" is a solid record, filled with fun surprises, which start truly revealing themselves by the third track. Track placing was something the band clearly thought about, as the first two songs take a more traditional Techdeath route and by the time we reach the lengthy coda of "Wall Of Water," things start to show the diverse colours EXOCRINE has to offer.

The songwriting is strong and the musicianship is simply extraordinary and skilful. This quartet (and every additional player that might have taken part in the album) knows exactly what they are doing. When it comes to memorability, the album feels a bit uneven, as the more out-there sections (sometimes the less metal ones, even) seem to stick more in mind than the more typical Techdeath affair. In that sense, the album seems to grow more interesting by the end of "Wall Of Water," with the last four tracks being the most impressive ones.

When it comes to production, I find it mostly fitting and adequate for the record, even if it had some issues. My main criticism would be with the bass drum tone, that felt too dry and a bit lacklustre, as well as I missed a bit more reverb on the cymbals. The mix felt a bit muddied on the bass end of things, too, and I wish the trumpet was a little bit more present once it got to play with the whole band, as it did get a bit buried even with headphones, but this is more of a personal choice.

Overall, an impressive record with some truly enjoyable moments, compelling songwriting and remarkable technique from every band member. EXOCRINE are going strong on their fourth record, and that is no easy feat for any band. Keep an eye on them!

Songwriting: 8
Musicianship: 10
Memorability: 6
Production: 7

4 Star Rating

1. Maelstrom
2. The Kraken
3. Wall Of Water
4. Abyssal Flesh
5. Orbital Station
6. The Wreck
7. Starvation Project
8. The Chosen One
9. Galactic Gods
Jordy Besse – Bass, Vocals
Nicolas La Rosa – Guitars
Sylvain Octor-Perez – Lead guitar
Théo Gendron – Drums
Record Label: Unique Leader Records


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