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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.