Balancing technical ability and good songwriting isn’t always the easiest part of making a record for any band. When you’re a very gifted musician, it seems the instinctive thing to do is to show off that ability, and fit as many notes into as few bars as possible, showing how quickly you can change time signatures. While this makes for a compelling listening session as a musician, casual music fans usually want something a little easier to digest, something with a little more substance. London’s Exist Immortal are one of those rare bands that have managed to strike that difficult balance, as can be heard on their brand new full-length, Breathe.
The first thing that stands out about Breathe is the delicate balance between heavy, technical djent (there’s definitely a Meshuggah vibe at times) and soaring melodies. The vocals are the most immediate example, with just as much singing vocals in each song as there are Jens Kidman-esque guttural yells. The guitars are also melodic, with lots of delay and reverb effects added to the clean guitar bits that soar over the crunchy, yet still melodic riffs. The guitars employ enough arpeggios and sweep-picking to feature in an Yngwie Malmsteen wet dream, yet manage to not come off as overindulgent; melody and good song craft are not forsaken for technical ability on Breathe.
Exist Immortal are certainly one of the more melodic bands in the progressive metal/djent/whatever you want to call it scene, but there are some pretty heavy tunes in the mix as well, with the crushing “Invisible Lines” being a great example. Mathy breakdowns and yelled vocals are coupled with beautiful, e-bowed guitar bits and melodic vocals, which have the effect of covering the entire range of human emotion in one song. “Lucid” is another standout track, with some of the most technical lead-guitar bits, mid-tempo pacing, and slightly melancholy tone. The mixing and mastering give everything a nice, glossy sheen, with crystal clear tone, and plenty of overdubs, making it one of those albums that reveal something new with each listen. Exist Immortal write the kind of music that both tech-junkies AND casual listeners can enjoy at the same time, managing to mix cerebral and emotional music that captivates you at once. Fans of the heavier side of this particular niche in modern metal might find Breathe a little too pretty at times, but if you’re looking for something a bit more melodic between Meshuggah records, this might be just what the doctor ordered.