Saturday, August 16, 2008

InExordium - S/T (2008)

I've labored over this album.... literally! Since I pre-ordered it & got the download link to get the MP3s before the street release, I've listened to this album several times through. However, every time I get the urge to listen to it, I'm working on something. I've washed dishes, put laundry away, done house cleaning, and worked at my day job. Unfortunately, that means the music doesn't get my full attention. Fortunately, however, it has given me time to allow this stuff to "sink in" a bit before writing my review.

For those not "in the know", InExordium formed from a reunited team consisting of most of the original line-up of Christian doom-death metal stalwarts Paramaecium. After several years of toiling in the underground, despite having several highly lauded albums, band leader Andrew Tompkins probably felt the doom-death sound he had helped pioneer had run its course. When guitarist Jason De Ron and the insanely talented drummer Jayson Sherlock returned to the fold in late 2006 after having been off doing their own projects for some while, Andrew decided it was time to lay Paramaecium to rest & move forward with the old line-up in a new direction. Fans (including myself) have waited over a year for what was to come, and many months after the announcement that the name of the band was changing from Paramaecium to InExordium, a Myspace site with a couple tracks FINALLY emerged, at last giving fans a glimpse into the new direction. At first blush, for those of us used to the sounds of death dirge, this was quite a change to a more straight-forward, heavy death metal direction.

Now that the pre-orders are well underway (I'm hoping I was one of the first 100 so I get my copy signed by the band), and the download has been out for a few weeks now, I felt it was time to give this band & album its due. This is a very solid piece of death metal, and an interesting release for a number of reasons. Before I sing the praises of this album, let me get a couple negative things out of the way. I am a little disappointed by the production on this album. Don't get me wrong - it sounds great. Everything is clear & the instruments are well balanced. What I mean is the heaviness isn't quite there. It's plenty heavy, that much is true. But, it lacks the unrelenting heaviness of Paramaecium's "Exhumed From the Earth" album. I still consider that one of the heaviest things every recorded because the guitar is so stinking thick & heavy, and the sound is so punishing, even for as slow & plodding as it can be. Second, this record is difficult to classify. It's not old-school death metal, it's not melodic death metal, and it's not brutal death metal. It's also not tech-death. That makes it hard to classify. It's modern, but it still retains a sound that very much hearkens back to death metal days of yore. This is only a minor criticism, because it's also one of the albums strong points. The variety helps keep it fresh throughout. It feels like a mixture of all the above styles. Another thing that bothers me a bit is the lyrics - they're mostly vague, either sounding like obtuse stories or odd collections of thoughts and/or feelings that don't convey (at least not to me) anything concrete. Of course, lyrics are often left to interpretation, so perhaps they were left intentionally vague. In any case, they're not as satisfying as other death metal bands who at least convey something specific, or make the lyrics so obtuse that it sends your imagination running wild. These mostly just make me go, "Huh?"

"Out of the Silence" starts things off in fine form, with a song that blends a brutal death metal sound with a slightly melodic modern death metal framework. Lyrically, the song is based on a novel by the same name. It's kind of a science fiction story, of sorts. No solos in this song, but nice transitioning between the melodic parts, the brutal/fast parts, and the verse sections that are well paced & keep right along. "Scourge of Democracy" has a fair bit of groove to it, and lyrically eludes to politicians & the erosion of freedom. Jayson keeps the double-bass drums going throughout, and the riffs here by Jason De Ron are well placed & fit the song well. The quiet part about 2:30 in breaks up the action slightly until the chorus riff comes pummeling back to finish off the song. "The Voice of Treason" also has quite a bit of groove in its opening riff. The layering of the guitars work well here, especially in headphones where you get some separation. "Programmed Cell Death" has a great riff that's not overtly technical, but has a nice feel to it. Lots of groove here as well, and the chorus riff has a nice old-school feel to it, especially with the double-tracked guitars. "Rising Hatred" starts out with a short intro that leads into a blast beat & the most brutal section on the album thus far. The riff in the chorus has a cool effect that I've not heard before & can't quite describe, but it's pretty cool & sounds sorta like a really fast sweep. I can't pin the song down, lyrically; not sure if it's just a story or not. It seems like it's alluding to abortion and the feelings surrounding it for an indifferent father & an emotionally devastated mother, but that's just a guess at this point. "Beneath Contempt" is a fast song with a nice riff and a crawling groove. The first guitar solo crops up here, and is a nice winding solo that serves the song well & doesn't showboat. "Imminent Particle Collision" is another barn-burner, starting off with blast beats & a fast rhythm, complete with plenty of double-bass & cymbal work. The song settles into a fast groove reminiscent of some older death metal shortly thereafter, before transitioning back to blast beats. The song gets plenty of groove in the middle section before resuming the blast-beat laden verse portion. Good dual-guitar work here with a harmonized riff. The groove-laden riff in "Fractured Cortex" is pretty sweet, with some nice guitar work. "Buried Alive" has more blast-beast in its opening, and an effective riff that keeps the song moving. The middle section has nice dual-guitar work with riffs that aren't harmonized, but play well off one another. "Punishment" is based on the novel "Crime and Punishment" and has a cool opening riff. The "chorus" riff is reminiscent of some of the slower, more plodding work Jason De Ron did for Paramaecium. The solo here is more all-out than the previous one, going all over the map & going for speed toward the end. It's interesting that the lyrics take the point of view of the killer in the story & coming from a perspective that the killer knows he deserves punishment for his crime and longs for it. "Covered In Pain" has an awesome opening riff and some good growls by Tompkins. This song in it's main riff uses the same "fast sweep" sound I mentioned before. It's a cool effect and gives the song an "eerie" feel that death metal often doesn't achieve. The lyrics come from an antagonist perspective; I'm not sure if it's written from the perspective of satan, or some other fictional character, it's all very vague. The groove here is great as well, and the laugh at the end of the song is pretty cool.

So, what is the verdict here? Well, it's a mixed bag. The vocals are dead on; if you were a fan of Andrew Tompkins work in Paramaecium, you know what you're getting & his voice will be unmistakable. If not, expect an interesting throaty growl. If you like solid riffing with some variety, you'll love the guitar work here. If you like lots of solos in your death metal, you won't find it here, though the small amount of solo work here is well done & fits the songs. And, of course, Jayson Sherlock's drumming is superb as always. I feel a bit let down by the lyrics; Andrew is capable of so much, as is evidenced by his previous work. I realize InExordium is NOT Paramaecium, but I can't help draw parallels. The lyrics in this don't speak to me at all, which I find to be slightly off-putting. Not so much that it prompts me not to listen, but enough that I probably won't take the time to learn the lyrics (other than what I pick apart with multiple listens), and they'll become just a portion of the landscape with the vocals. The lack of more solos is also a minor notch against the album, though a lot of death metal doesn't have much in the way of solo work. The other thing here is that Andrew's vocals, while maintaining the unique sound & tone he has, sound as though he's being cut off a bit, or perhaps he can't maintain the kind of longer growls he used to, but there are times when it seems a word or phrasing is cut short. Perhaps it's just the change of pacing from the doom-death I'm used to hearing from him and the faster, more succinct sound that is throwing me off, but it's a nagging feeling nonetheless.

The final word? It's a solid album that fans of death metal & Paramaecium will want to own. I'm left wanting more, but not necessarily in the way I feel I should be. Perhaps I expect too much from this album, given all the time fans have had to wait for it, and all the hype that preceded it. Maybe I'm judging it too harshly when it's just the album Andrew & crew were intending to make. And perhaps I'm over-analyzing it too much (which I have been known to do). All I know is, I'm hoping the next InExordium album is a cut above this and shows the band's talent even more, with perhaps a more focused lyrical direction and more bone-crushing heaviness in tow.


Okay, so I realized my original review was probably a tad harsh. My expectations were too inflated, and I see upon additional listens that this is better than I thought it was, but my expectations were clouding my judgment. I still don't think it's quite as brilliant as some are lauding it to be, but it's better than I originally posited. So, I am adjusting the score of the album to 9/10 from the original 7.5/10 rating. I feel this is more in line with where the album is at. It makes the grade and is quite solid, though it's not as good as I think it has the potential to be. I want it to be clear that despite my misgivings with this album, I honestly do enjoy it quite a bit.

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