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You took the wrong Exit, please turn over - 55%

PaganiusI, May 24th, 2019
Written based on this version: 2008, CD, Supreme Chaos Records

After covering Agrypnie's outstanding debut album and still listening to it every now and then, I thought about expanding my review collection for that band.... and here I am struggling with a release I'm unsure how to label it and how to make a review out of it. Not that it's particularly bad or anything, but "Exit" doesn't leave much of an impression at all and I'll at least try to explain why in the following lines, I guess.

"Exit" marks the second full-length of Torsten Hirsch's side project Agrypnie which he formed to be able to write his own songs, break down his own emotions and interests into music and not just providing the vocal chords like he does in Nocte Obducta. That approach obviously leads to a completely different sound that is more rooted in posty and proggy than in avant-garde black metal. He released one split and one album on his own, the latter being my all-time favorite of his, before making the studio project grow into a full band that is playing concerts. This change might be the main reason why this album doesn't get much attention as it was released between the debut and "16[485]", two really strong works. In comparison to those, "Exit" lacks most of the aspects that made the two quite distinct albums good/great. It also suffers from the fact, that the other band members joined shortly before the album was recorded, so they didn't have the chance to grow into an organic sounding band yet.

The band is following the path they took on the debut album, but leaving behind the industrial coldness created by the drum machine towards the "warmer" post-black sound while keeping the weird, bulky progressiveness. The production is pretty sterile, leaving little room for atmospheres which is one of the major reasons I despise most post-black stuff in the first place. Every instrument was mixed crystal clear and with enough room for all of them to show off what they got without getting buried at all. Even the quietest instrument, which would be the drums, can add a lot to the overall sound of the album. On the other hand it also leads to a very flat sound, leaving loads of room unused and almost makes it feel compressed which isn't really beneficial for the album's case. In fact, this exact production is the major downside of this album and breaks its neck entirely. Just a bit more of a raw spirit would've been really nice or if you insist on a clear production go full industrial, but don't just leave an album in a warm-feeling easy-listening state of existence with no soul and no spirit.

Musically this isn't that bad at all, but not really good either. The crafted notes form an interesting mix of transcendental, posty-wandering, harsh black metal and complex progressive structures which creates a really unique blend of styles. Contrary to the very accessible production, this is really hard to get into, not only due to the complexity, because their later albums are better in that regard without refraining from doing very complex arrangements, but also the fact that most members joined shortly before the recording. Therefore there's no organic symbiosis, the members are doing their part without knowing the other guys' strengths and weaknesses and the songwriting didn't have those things in mind either. It's not complete garbage, but it keeps this album from being remarkably good. The drums provide some partly groovy, partly aggressive but always pretty exhausting rhythms, constantly changing it up with various patterns like "slow gravity blasts", double bass or galloping, bouncy stuff which accompanies the guitars pretty decently. The string section is further intensifying the complexity by providing stakkato patterns, weird riffs and solos as well as some burst of aggressive, even harsh black metal riffing as well as the posty, pseudo-atmospheric wandering. The bass is adding a little volume and backup energy to it, but isn't contributing that much on his own other than following the guitars or drums, depending on the occasion. At times, the full song shifts into a completely different realm, providing an acoustic interlude that came out of nowhere and vanishes into nothingness, destroying the last bits of atmosphere hat could've been created by the keyboards. Those provide the typical, ethereal and gloomy background wall and make the songs create a dreamy, melancholic undertone that evens out the harsher, raging parts, but also adds to the cheesiness. All in all the instrumentation provides a very inaccessible mixture of post-influenced gloomy, warm, appealing melodies and orchestration and very complex progressive riffs and rhythms that change every 10 seconds or so and almost seem random in their progression. That makes an decent, solid footing for the vocals, but it takes a fare amount of rotations before getting to that conclusion.

The vocals follow Torsten's old route, intonating his experiences with insomnia and his general interest in philosophy and sleep (dreams, psychological stuff,...). Easily understandable screams with only a slight bit of hoarseness and guttural involvement are dominating the release. His vocals are pretty emotional and churning while maintain his professionalism, giving his voice to a surprisingly calm night terror that's crawling under your skin. They haven't changed much from the first album and are still present in his recent releases and I really like that approach a lot. It sounds like the voice is crawling through the cracks between the instruments and fills them with agony, pain and insanity. For the first time in the band's career, the lyrics weren't written by Marcel, Torsten's band mate in Nocte Obducta, but by Torsten himself and his friend Marco V. Despite this change, these lyrics are still the main reason why I listen to most of his songs. They are incredibly well-written, philosophical, theatrical and full of symbols and metaphors which makes them not only a perfect fit for an ambitious band like this, but also an interesting read on their own. Just read the lyrics for "Fenster zum Hof" and think about what's present in them.

Agrypnie's second release is an album full of ups and downs, changing the original band sound to something that is partly enjoyable, solid posty progressive black stuff, rather unique in its own way and partly some randomly assembled bits recorded by a bunch of guys that haven't grown into an organic band yet. The band remains a rather aggressive sound when compared to other post-black combos, but relying on the same wanky over-the-top production and dreamy keyboards keeps this from being good. This release also marks a turning-point in the band's career as the albums to come are all in that kind of way, just better written and with band members that are harmonizing a lot better. "Exit" makes me quite sad, despite being an okay album, because I can't really recommend it even though I want to like it. I just can't.