Tech Death Thursday: Exocrine – Maelstrom

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Big new tech for big tech bois

Big tech news first though:

  • Dan Gargiulo has left Revocation in order to focus on other musical pursuits. While his touch on Revo’s sound will be missed, it’s going to be worth it if it means we get more Artificial Brain.
  • Serocs are streaming their new EP, Vore, and it’s every bit as intense as you’d expect. Pick that bad boy up tomorrow from Everlasting Spew.
  • If you need some more Unique Leader goodness, Ahtme released a new tune on Tuesday that totally rips. Look for the full album on July 24th.

Exocrine’s sophomore album, Ascension, was one of my favorite random discoveries at the time; it sounded like everything else and nothing else all at once, and while it may have been thematically scattershot, it was still a super cool listen. It had speed and shred on the same level as Archspire or First Fragment, a propensity for off-kilter songwriting in the vein of Gorod, and an affinity for Obscura-style guitar duels. With all of this rolled into a single package, it came together with a sound unlike anything else, and it’s still worth revisiting.

The followup, Molten Giant, I… never talked about? How did that happen? Anyway, Molten Giant was a much more focused effort that dispensed of some of the wilder aspects of its predecessor to hone its songwriting edge. It’s a much more cohesive listening experience, driven by a blend of heavy riffing and dual-guitar leads, dazzling in their technical prowess but tempered by a greater sense of melody. They really seem to have doubled down on their Gorod influence here; the album sounds like it would slot in nicely between Process of a New Decline and A Perfect Absolution, a midpoint between the chaos of the former and the prog sensibilities of the latter.

Their newest record and second under the Unique Leader banner, Maelstrom, sees them changing musical direction again; if you were hoping for a musical sequel to Molten Giant, you’re probably going to be disappointed. While there are some direct parallels to its predecessor- the opening of “The Kraken” mirrors “Hayato,” and the tapped leads on “Starvation Project” would have fit in perfectly on Giant– Maelstrom is largely a different beast. It’s not so different that they lose their musical identity, but be forewarned that if you’re a fan of the band’s previous work, you’ll want to approach this one with a different mindset.

Now, that said, I think that Maelstrom is the band’s most internally consistent album thus far. Much of the high-flying lead work of previous albums has been cut in favor of a greater exploration of a deep, dark sound that lends itself to the record’s aquatic theme. The dueling guitars are still out in full force, but the bulk of the riffs are slower and/or heavier than before. They’re supplemented by muted, mysterious synths (as on the title track) with melodies often mirrored in the leads that really drive home that feeling of witnessing deep sea horrors. Penultimate track “The Chosen One” best encapsulates this new direction, tying together old and new Exocrine with its mixture of menacing chords, hyperspeed melodies, and soothing clean guitar set to the sound of waves.

Perhaps the band’s most inspired (and certainly most surprising) move is the inclusion of trumpet on a multitude of tracks. This isn’t the brash, bombastic clarion heraldry one might expect of a tech death band; rather, it’s used to create a tasteful noir atmosphere not unlike what you’d hear from White Ward or A Novelist. It’s one of those things that sounds like it should be garbage on paper, but in execution, it’s fantastic. It brings a unique sonic texture to the table, and it’s used sparingly to keep it from growing stale.

So while Maelstrom may not be a mind-boggling revelation of an album, it’s still a damn fine listen in its own right. It’s smart and focused as it is unrelenting and technical, and that trumpet, man. The more I listen to this album the more I like it; Exocrine are carving out their own niche in the tech death sphere, and I can’t wait to see where they go next. Maelstrom releases Friday, June 26th via Unique Leader. You can pick it up at IndieMerch or on Bandcamp, and you can follow the band on Facebook. That’s all for now, so until next time,

Stay Tech

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