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Liminal, Exivious' highly anticipated second offering, is a lush and balanced hybrid of metal, jazz, and progressive elements that simultaneously feels like a jam session and a professional recording. This is the first time that Exivious' members have equally participated in the writing process, a change from the debut where the lion's share of concepts and structures were written by Tymon (and a beautiful job he did, too). The result is an emotive and vibrant expression of animated emotion.
Liminal is a grab bag of sounds that contains as much variety of influence as it does heart. The songs are progressive, jazzy, and ambient with energy levels ranging from restrained to full throttle. Nothing feels out of place. The sunny and bouncy “One’s Glow” is juxtaposed with the slow-grooving and unvaried “Alphaform,” providing a contrast that displays the Exivious’ ability to play at different speeds and express themselves in a variety of methods. It seems like a greater amount of pressure is placed on “feel” rather than precision, adding a sense of carefree fun that comes from a jam session with friends. The album’s opener, “Entrust,” is a standing confirmation of this quality where the lead guitar twists and spirals in front of the hotly pursuing rhythm section before the enthralling climax. Quirky moments like "Triguna" (especially its oddly satisfying and discordant finish) and the alto saxophone solo on "Deeply Woven" keep the sound fresh and surprise the listener. Closing out the album is the aggressive "Immanent" which manages to be heavy while still maintaining the grace held by the other songs. The cord progression coupled with the double bass from the drums at the end of "Immanent" ends the record on a mysterious high note.
Exivious masterfully play their instruments. Nary is there a sour note or an off-beat drum hit. They manage to lay down immersive ambient sections and racing foot stompers with relative ease. Thanks to the excellent quality of production, every note, from the hushed keys and chords that provide the backdrop to the poppy snare in the fore, can be heard. The guitar tones, bright and airy, are nothing short of exquisite and were clearly painstakingly crafted. Dropping off the gain and adding a touch of reverb emanate a ghostly whisper for quiet sections while inching it back up gives the guitar teeth and grip once more. Guitarists Tymon and Michel use this weapon to accentuate their already immaculate playing. They seem to have no issue with switching from swirling solos to quiet chord progressions, all the while crossing time signatures like it’s nothing. The rhythm section is equally as impressive. The full-bodied purr of the fretless bass lines from Robin shine forth even more on this record than on the debut album. The slower and tamer moments like “Movement” highlight the bassist’s harmonizing ability where he skillfully navigates the key and chord laden outro, improving an already beautiful section. The bass runs on the quicker “Immanent” and “One’s Glow” act like throaty reins for the guitars and compliment their cloy presentation. The drums cut clearly through the mix while not overpowering the other instruments. Yuma cycles thoughtfully from simpler drumming patterns to full out assaults, never flopping on a fill or transition. Peppier performances such as “One’s Glow” and “Triguna” are just as memorable and awe-inspiring as the more restrained sections on “Alphaform.”
Adventurous, eclectic, and cohesive in its own brilliance, Liminal stands as an instant classic as a truly diverse and boundary furthering album. This time, each band member contributes stylistically and conceptually to the overall sound and the results are exceptional. This diversity of inspiration, above all other aspects, gives Liminal the foundation for its distinct and successful sound. Exivious have added yet another brilliant gem to their portfolio rife with undeniable character and infinite nuance.
Exivious generated quite the buzz within the progressive death metal scene back in 2008 when founding guitarist Tymon Kruidenier was recruited into Cynic to help create their long-awaited Traced in Air, which was a great success in my eyes. Upon departing from Cynic, Kruidenier gathered a few Dutchmen (including guitarist Michel Nienhuis, who would later go on to form Dodecahedron) to record Exivious' self-titled debut, which showed some promise, even if it did feel like a poor man's Cynic. Perhaps Kruidenier's contributions to Traced in Air were more superficial than I had once imagined, for the second Exivious album, Liminal, has proven to be a rather mediocre effort that doesn't really tread any new musical ground.
On Traced in Air, Cynic used jazz fusion passages as a means to evoke a sense of calming otherworldliness. On Liminal, however, these passages form the bulk of the music, a mere backdrop for the band to let loose with aimless wankery, supported by perfunctory clean arpeggios and Zielhorst's ever-present fretless bass. They keep doing this until they go, "Oh well, time's up, guess we have to end the song". At this point they'll arbitrarily throw in an 'exciting' climax, before wrapping it up and moving on to the next song. Admittedly, these climaxes are often rather intense, but the tedium of what came before does nothing but leave me wondering, "How the fuck did the song end up like this?” The debut had a couple of interesting, jittery riffs to break up the solo sections, however abundant they might have been; Liminal, however, has very few of them, and is basically a homogenous collection of jazz fusion passages that seem to go on for eternity. In particular, Triguna's attempts at discordant Dillinger-esque riffing fail completely, making it sound ridiculous next to their other songs.
Still, I'm not saying it's a terrible album. It's even pretty good at times. Deeply Woven sounds a lot like modern math rock bands such as Chon, with its adventurous, jumpy rhythms accented by the drumming of newly-recruited Yuma van Eekelen. They even throw in a saxophone solo by Jonas Knutsson for good measure (he also played in Fredrik Thordendal's Special Defects). Movement is a very pretty interlude in 11/8 time that forgoes the soloing in favour of contrapuntal guitar lines. The frenetic main riff of Immanent is immediately captivating, but more so the progression into its beautiful resolution.
It's becoming clear that Exivious are, for better or for worse, beginning to follow the exact same path Cynic once took: both played eccentric death metal on their demos, and are getting increasingly 'experimental' with each release. It's a shame that Exivious often squander their potential and just settle for directionless wank these days, because they're still very capable of crafting a great song if they really wanted to.
An album of this nature should be released with warning labels. WARNING: This is not for the casual listener. WARNING: There are no vocals contained on this release. WARNING: Listening to this may cause your face to melt and your brain to explode.
Exivious play progressive jazz metal fusion. Being the brain child of former Cynic guitarist Tymon Kruidenier, whose performance on the 'Traced in Air' LP and 'Re-Traced' EP, which is stellar to say the least. The band also features former Pestilence drummer Yuma van Eekelen, bassist Robin Zielhorst and gutarist Michel Nienhuis, who create soundscapes, that will expand the mind if not blow it up completely.
When I hear the words jazz metal fusion, I tend to be very skeptical. It seems as a lot of bands take on this task with best intentions, but somehow fall short of the mark. This is not due to a lack of musicianship, but rather the ability to craft memorable songs. It's as if the focus leans more towards them noodling with their instruments and technicality rather than playing with feeling and creating a song that has a flow to it. This is not the case with Exivious. Although they have all the technical ability in the world, they manage to craft extremely memorable songs.
Exivious also manage not to get get stuck in any form of this expansive sound for too long. Although, there is not as much heavy guitar riffage as there is technical fret playing, there is enough to keep the listener happy and interested in what they are hearing. The other key element, is when the guitars are going off on their journey, they never go to far that the listener gets lost. They somehow have found a perfect balance. I mention the guitars, because as I see it, they're the focal point. However, each instrument is placed perfectly in the mix to give 'Liminal' the best possible sound that can be obtained. The other great thing about this release is that aside for the use of saxophone on "Deeply Woven" these four guys pull off this sound with just guitars, bass and drums. The idea of this stripped down instrumentation approach makes this a remarkable album and something to behold.
'Liminal' is only the second release from Exivious, and if this is what they can accomplish this early in their career, the sky is the limit for these guys. If you like to be challenged by the music you listen to, and pick up on sounds and ideas you may have missed during the first ten listens, than this album is for you.
Originally written for www.metalbite.com