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Lacking Energy and Enthusiasm - 62%

DeathRiderDoom, June 26th, 2009


Yeah – it’s cool, first off. I heard of these guys ages ago although I don’t know how – I remember being taken with the bands name and came across the album finally after probably a year of fruitless searching, perhaps even three years. Exises are somewhat of an oddity – extremely unknown these days, they play a style of progressive power metal, rich in melodies, with some keys, but not necessarily the complex blends of sounds and drawn out passages which are common of the genre. I guess for stylistic comparisons we could cite Queensryche and Fifth Angel – a comparison likely to get a few people out there looking for the album. In any case – there’s a lot of straightforward ‘heavy metal’ kinda sound to the album. It’s not the all-out abandonment of straightforward drums and vocal structuring that later progressive metal came to typify. Having said that – it does retain a few hallmarks of the genre, though this isn’t the wholly progressive space metal offering that their later 1996 album is.

Slower numbers like ‘Some Sort of Freedom’ have a relaxed, softer nature – vocal melodies being the main focus, as well as slower sections of soft, whimpering guitar, over moody bass work. Drums in this one are soft – reverb on the snare, and much of the aggressiveness of the sound is ‘scooped’ out. This one features some really skillful solos by axeman Michel Seithoff, while the riffage is reminiscent of simpler Queensryche stuff. Meanwhile, the track ‘Brainstorm’ furthers the progressive sound much further. An odd assortment of guitar melodies, and unusual drums, with slower, moody and reflective moments make this one an emotional instrumental piece. Crisp production in this one really hekps it along – and you can hear every instrument crystal clear. The keyboards in the later part of the track are an excellent touch, and are quite inventive.

Highlights of the album probably include ‘Fear for the Night’ – a pacier number retaining a melodic NWOBHM feel – particularly in the vocal/guitar mating of the verses. At times like these, the band perhaps could draw comparisons with Leatherwolf – their crisp guitars, and softer edged sound. Some great vocal screams are also found in this one. ‘Misunderstood’ brings to the table a lot more traditional heavy metal, and has catchy vocals again with a bit of a NWOBHM feel (Chariot, Tytan), and has some great guitar reminiscent of Racer X or M.A.R.S. While these songs are good though, and feature nice production, and some good use of keys, we perhaps lack some massively catchy, big choruses for memorability, or much really cool subject matter in the tracks. It often feels like some of the tracks were a bit rushed, and could’ve been reworked and improved a bit.

Altogether an enjoyable record – benefits being the crisp sound, and inventive guitar mastery. There are some emotional slower numbers like ‘Stay With Me’ – a sad ballad, while ‘Fear of the Night’ and co. make up the faster ground. Songs feature some good touches, particularly on guitars, but it almost feels like the songs are a bit simplistic, and lack any really good, powerful vocal sections. You don’t have any of the bombastic, huge vocal harmonies you might expect, which captivate the listener, though Leurs isn’t a weak vocalist per se. A nice, soft-edged melodic sound is found throughout, but I do feel like some of the songs could be improved. A reworking of two of the tracks here would probably bump up the score – they just need that little bit extra to make it an excellent album. While I enjoy this album, I’m not too sure how it would go down with others. We can draw comparisons to Queensryche, Racer X, M.A.R.S., for sound, but none of the songs really blow me away. Certainly not the most memorable album I’ve heard in the last month, but not horrible either.