photograph by Zak Pinchin Media
Progressive is a term that has no place in the description of so many progressive metal bands. Progressive suggests a sense of innovation, evolution and something exhilarating and new. Most progressive metal bands don’t do this. They combine complex musical ideas with some incredible musicianship and high-end productions without a single new idea. Ultimately though not all new ideas are good ideas, and plenty of old ideas are worth repeating.
It might be harsh to call Exist Immortal unimaginative but I’m inclined to think it’s pretty accurate. This album is full of soaring melodies, glass like cleans, chugs at off-putting tempos a plenty and some arbitrary guttural bellows. None of these are new ideas, but Exist Immortal have developed something of a knack for arranging them in just the right place to make their songs pretty interesting, even if there sound isn’t.
This ear for catchy arrangements already puts them well ahead of most of their peers, who would rather spend time fiddling with pro tools plug-ins instead of writing parts that might incite a crowd. During their heavier moments its easy to imagine Exist Immortal inspiring a riot live, their chugging tendencies combined with a vocal that has more in common with death metal than a hardcore bark lends the band a credible muscular edge that off sets their melodic moments surprisingly well. ‘Desolace’ being an excellent example of this, its soaring melodic vocals contrasting nicely with some well placed roars.
A lot of the parts might sound kind of similar as the album goes on, but every time one of those moments kicks the door in its never unwelcome. At times the band bring to mind the root one knuckle headed accessibility of Heart of a Coward, though I’m certain Exist Immortal would consider a lot of their music a touch more cerebral than that band’s single-minded dedication to brutality. The spin on a dime nature of the dynamics of ‘Legions’ goes to prove just how enthralling some of the band’s more energetic moments can be.
Instrumentally the band’s quieter moments aren’t as easy to get into, but the thick soulful vocal that often accompanies them is excellent. At times it brings to mind Incubus, before they became beige, though sometimes they’re a touch too restrained. Sticking close to the grid musically is typical of the new breed of musicians, but there is absolutely something to be said for letting rip. Particularly vocally.
Exist Immortal are obviously excellent instrumentalists and they’ve found themselves a great singer and are quickly developing an ear for good song writing. The one thing holding them back is how easily they could be lost in the crowd. Which would be a genuine shame, because based on ‘Darkness of an Age’ they really don’t deserve to.
There’s probably more bands than I can count trying to do what Exist Immortal do. But there’s only a handful doing it as well. And even less doing it better.