London’s Exist Immortal look to make a bigger splash in the prog/tech metal pool with their second album after kind of getting lost in the shuffle with their self-released 2014 debut, Darkness Of An Age. But Breathe takes what the quintet did “back then” and pretty much improves upon it in every way so as to rival the work of better-known countrymen Monuments or TesseracT.
The band’s sound certainly echoes that of their aforementioned contemporaries, mashing up djenty grooves, brash metallic bombast and technical agility with engaging melodies, soaring vocals and a scale that is never less than epic. But on Breathe, it all comes together with more finesse, soul and feeling, and boasts a confident air that only a couple years of roadwork and maturity can bring.
Led by awesomely named frontman Meyrick de la Fuente, who owns some of the mightiest pipes in the business and a range that can jockey between Randy Blythe-like roars and sweeping cleans with ease, Exist Immortal match their dexterity with more fully realized songs and purposeful execution. As prog/tech metal goes, Breathe is comparatively tight and compact, not prone to the meandering that is so common. Though there are some exceptions, like the elaborate and occasionally elegant title track, such jauntiness there is actually welcome.
For the most part, though, the songs are built around big, punchy riffs and roiling but taut rhythms that keep things marching forward, even when Kurt Valencia and James Hewitt take flight with their guitars, as on “Release” and its companion piece “Chi” that closes the album out. And while there’s not much wank to speak of here, there is some pretty challenging interplay between the two guitarists as one counters the other’s mighty hooks with lithe, almost delicate fret work, an approach that is employed to great effect.
There are still a few too many metal-core trappings here in the breakdowns and predictable bad-cop/good-cop vocal presentation, but that’s something the band can work on next time out I suppose. They’ve taken a substantial enough step forward with Breathe as it is. And that’s good enough for now.
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