Album Title: Legend
Label: Season Of Mist
Date of Release: 26 January 2024
It was only eighteen months ago that I was sitting open-mouthed, experiencing my first taste of Exocrine via their fifth full-length release, ‘The Hybrid Suns’. The quartet from Bordeaux, France had eluded me despite being in existence since 2015, but that’s no longer the case and, upon hearing that album number six was on the way early in 2024, I’ve been patiently waiting to hear the results. After all, it was Exocrine that was one of the most important discoveries of mine as I began to finally start to explore the realm of technical progressive death metal in a concerted fashion.
With ‘The Hybrid Suns’, it was the way in which the four musicians, comprised of drummer Théo Gendron, bassist/vocalist Jordy Besse, and guitarists Sylvain Octor-Perez and Nicolas La Rosa, managed to effortlessly combine exemplary musicianship alongside a bludgeoning heaviness without sacrificing anything by way of enjoyment or memorability. All-too-often, bands will be so keen to demonstrate their technical prowess, or their love of heaviness that, along the way, they forget the importance of the songs themselves. That was not the case with ‘The Hybrid Suns’ and it is most definitely not the case with ‘Legend’ either.
In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the self-same Gallic quartet have gone one better with ‘Legend’, creating an absolute beast of an album that delivers a little bit of just about everything that a lover of intelligent extreme metal could possibly want to hear, and in a way that is both challenging and accessible. It is rare that I become so obsessed about an album within this genre; normally I’m more of an admirer than a lover. However, it is only 16th January and already I dread to think how many times I have spun ‘Legend’.
One of the key factors for me is the length of the album and the songs themselves. Only one track extends beyond the six-minute mark and with all eleven songs, including the bonus track, clocking in at under 45 minutes, ‘Legend’ presents a very digestible slab of extreme prog/tech death metal. For me, it’s the perfect length, begging repeats rather than aural exhaustion on my part.
Then there’s the sheer variety available. It can sometimes be the Achilles heel of death metal, that the music can become repetitive, with songs demonstrating little or no differentiation, meaning all but the die-hard fanatic will have trouble staying the distance or picking the individual songs out of a line-up. Again, not here with Exocrine or ‘Legend’. Just about every song offers something different, something memorable, or something that simply catches my ear and makes me take a mental note, ready for the next run-through.
That’s not to say that Exocrine have lost any of their brutality or savagery, as they clearly have not. From start to finish, this record has teeth and knows how to use them, ripping the flesh from your bones via a razor-sharp riff, a pummelling blast beat, or a savage, venomous vocal scream, growl, or squeal. And if we take my favourite track on the album, ‘The Altar Of War’ as the prime example, it’s often the heaviest sections of the music that are the most memorable and dare I say it, catchy. The bruising, chunky riffs within this song are gargantuan, bringing a wicked grin to my face each and every time.
Diving into a few of the other tracks on ‘Legend’, and it’s tricky to know where to start. Mercifully, Exocrine only dabble with my personal nemesis, the hateful brass, on the one song. Mind you, such is the potent ferocity and extreme precision of the title track, it’s a slight misstep that I’m willing to overlook. And, if I’m being completely honest rather than unnecessarily surly, the unhinged, discordant nature of it, overlaying some unexpected electronic sounds, actually works well within the confines of a song that is utterly blistering and off the hook for the large majority of its mind-bending length. I mean, some of the riffs, licks, and drum patterns defy a mere mortal like me.
Another favourite is ‘Life’ which kicks off in melodic fashion thanks to a tasty dual guitar lick and expressive drumming. Incorporating greater djent-like down-tuned tones, monstrous groove, scintillating melody and multi-layered vocals for added depth and intrigue, it’s one hell of a track. Some of the musicianship within it defies belief too, such is the precision, clarity, and deftness with which the material is delivered through the speakers. The introduction of clean vocal tones, followed by an expressive lead guitar break is the icing on the cake, bringing the song to an unexpectedly abrupt but satisfying conclusion.
I also adore the quieter, jazz-infused opening to ‘Dust In The Naught’ with gentle atmosphere and clear lead guitar notes that noodle away before being obliterated by an epic-sounding assault of extreme metal. As the song develops, we get more layering of vocals including a deeper, cleaner approach that sounds almost Gothic in tone, plus a gorgeously soulful and melodic lead guitar solo. The switches in pace, tone, and intensity are further hallmarks of the Exocrine attack across the record, an approach that keeps things highly entertaining and engaging throughout, in spite of its generally uncompromising power. And then, towards the death, we get a brief and slightly unexpected foray into full-on industrial/Gothic territory complete with clean vocals and electronic soundscapes.
What is there left to say about ‘Legend’? Other than it might turn out to be a legendary album within the world of technical and progressive death metal. It does just about everything right. From start to finish, it excites, it delights, it pummels, it bruises, and it leaves your brain in tatters when thinking about the sheer brutality and the on-point technicalities of the music. I cannot stop listening to this album, and I won’t stop listening to it. If all tech death was like this, it’d be my new favourite genre of music without question. Exocrine are special, and so is ‘Legend’. Do not miss out on it for one second.
The Score of Much Metal: 97%