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Liminal, Exivious' highly anticipated second offering is a lush and balanced hybrid of metal, jazz, and progressive elements that comes across as quickly and equally as serious in the same breath. This is the first time that Exivious' members have been able to write entirely their own material. The majority of the material on Exivious' debut was written by Tymon who would establish a base line and a sense of direction for each song, then allow his band mates to improvise and their own flare to the music. The result is wonderful melding of styles and ideas, seamless and balanced.
Liminal is a grab bag of sounds with tons of variety and equally as much heart. The album is progressive, jazzy, and ambient and places more emphasis on feel than on precision. Each song reflects a different light, but still manages to stay within the same spectrum throughout the album's course. The album has slower, tamer moments like the catchy, but unvaried Alphaform and the soothing, washed number "Movement." It also features less restrained, more upbeat moments like the bouncy and exciting "One's Glow." Quirky moments like "Triguna" (especially its oddly satisfying and discordant finish) and the alto saxophone solo on "Deeply Woven" surface every now and then to add some interesting flavor.
Exivious masterfully play their instruments, lay down immersive ambient sections, and maintain a high level quality of production that really draw the listener in. Contributing to this are the absolutely exquisite guitar tones (thank you Axe FX II), groovy fretless bass rhythms, and exciting drum lines. The complex main riff, and accompanying solos, of "Deeply Woven" will turn heads and if that does not float your boat, then the more nebulous opener "Entrust" may be more your speed. Another moment not to be missed is the beautiful opening solo on "Open" which uses a combination of a jazzy approach and an airy, slightly distorted tone to give it a beautiful edge. Closing out the album is the phenomenal "Immanent" which manages to be heavy while still maintaining the grace carried by the other songs. The cord progression coupled with the double bass from the drums at the end of "Immanent" really seals the deal though and ends the record on a mysterious high note.
Adventurous, eclectic, and cohesive, Liminal stands alone against other progressive metal albums as a truly diverse and solid album. This time, each band member to contribute stylistically to the overall sound. This unity of direction, above all other aspects, gives Liminal the foundation for its distinct sound. Exivious have added yet another brilliant gem to their portfolio rife with undeniable character and infinite nuance.
My favorites songs are “Triguna,” “Open,” and “Immanent.”
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