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Exsul – Exsul Award winner

by Eric Moxon at 06 February 2021, 9:03 AM

Formed in 2018 and hailing from sunny and scorched Arizona, EXSUL emerge from the burning pits of torment to bring forth their first EP release; delivering crushingly monstrous Death Metal with some Doom elements. Somewhat akin to the likes of DISEMBOWELMENT, WINTER, and COFFINS; this EP is entrenched in atmospheric darkness and dripping cavernous brutality start to finish.

The guitar tone chosen by Charon (guitar/vocals) sounds evil, massive, and blindingly caustic; placing much more emphasis on the overall atmosphere and brilliant utilization of nuance found within. The guitars trudge through in a droning and lumbering fashion. Toiling distortion plods along, breathing impending Doom before erupting into crushing, cavernous riffs laid overtop salacious and malevolently powerful blastbeats executed by Phlegyas (drums). Interspersed with eerie, acoustic interludes that wind through the album, painting a very dark, narrative atmosphere. Entombing the album in an umbral singularity of aesthetic, minimalistic chaos. The guitar solos executed by Charon absolutely fucking wail. Screeching and squealing, disintegrating pick abuse across the fretboard that blindsides the listener and punctuates how aggressive the blasting sections are when they roll through.

The self-titled track, "Exsul", opens the song with a creepy, ritualistic sounding intro. The aesthetic is like that of a fire burning in a cave; as a divine, evil rite is performed. The occasional ambient string is plucked and bass drum struck, before creepy acoustic surface structure shine beneath crushing distorted guitar. Ravaged by bass-heavy drums performed in a plundering, funerary fashion. The music alternates between crawling, slow tempo Doom and rapid blasting Death Metal with some D-beats thrown in. The vocals belch atonally, creating a drab display of decrepitude. I know this band is not Black Metal, but I can’t help but get a bit of a ‘War Metal’ vibe while listening.

"Yersinia Pestis" is the type of bacterium responsible for the bubonic plague, it is also the name of track two. There is no slow build up to this track. As track one ends in its crushingly slow outro, which suffocates away on a sombre note; this track pummels you right in the eardrums with erupting snare abuse and snarling Death growls, before dissolving into spastic D-beats which alternate back into blasts frequently. This carries on until you are hit with another wall of cavernous Death/Doom. Some clean guitars show up with some creepy arpeggios which become possessed by reverb-drowned guitars and bass-laden distortion that gradually halts into brutal 1 note chugs. The heaviest parts of this music seem to be the most simple, but do not be fooled; this material is rife with droningly relentless, down-picked tremolo and changing rhythms and time signatures.

Track 3 refers to the river of wailing in Greek mythology which flows into the river Acheron, on the other side of which lies Hades. This track is cavernous as fuck, the distorted bass sets the tone for "Cycotus", as the drums escalate into rollicking double bass kicks. It maintains the same aesthetic theme found in previous tracks with slightly different structure. The dependence on the guitar tone exuding such disgusting reverb limits the space for raw technicality or melody; instead they opt out for using this to their advantage. Thus creating a profound aesthetic theme of coruscating chugs beneath cacophonous Death blasting.

"Inopia" concludes the album, beginning begrudgingly with a vibe somewhat similar to "Caucus Of Mind" by ESOTERIC. Complete with rollicking D-beats and inverse skanks and squealing solos caused by strangulating whammy bar abuse. Do I detect a synth halfway through? The slow riff at the beginning is brought back to the surface a few times while maintaining that dark narrative atmosphere found all throughout the EP. Following that same theme, "Inopia" ends with a sombre acoustic outro with what appears to be an extension of the intro we heard in the beginning.

Impressive release from this up and coming band, we can only hope for what may be in store for the future.

Songwriting: 9
Musicianship: 9
Memorability: 8
Production: 10

4 Star Rating

1. Exsul
2. Yersinia Pestis
3. Cycotus
4. Inopia
Charon – Strings and curses
Phlegyas – Sticks and spells
Record Label: Caligari Records


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