Released: 2014, Self-released
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
With their cheeky titles and obvious double-entendres, Vancouver's Expain seem like the kind of thrash metal wisenheimers I'd usually dismiss. And perhaps they actually are goofballs in person, but “on vinyl,” so to speak, these guys are anything but a joke.
Just The Tip – oy! - the band's second release, follows an EP they issued in 2012 as The Almighty Excruciating Pain and is a more than competent and often quite impressive slab of melodic death/thrash metal. And the jazz and prog flavorings they sprinkle about here and there show Expain have some pretty serious chops.
Bassist Nikko Whitworth is especially nimble. The funky run on “Phoenix Writhing” and proggy noodling on”Aggressions Progression” kinda come out of nowhere, and end up sounding pretty cool – especially since the band know not the beat the novelty to death and get back to thrashing it up post-haste. Eric Morrison and Pat Peeve's fluid guitar work is terrific throughout, be it on dueling solos or the brash riffing on “A.T.M,” “Don't Worry The Worst Is Yet To Come” or “Headbang Your Head Off.” So, musically, it would seem, Expain are pretty much all business. There's certainly nothing frivolous about it. The band's bracing thrash boasts the old school chug and technical flair of vintage Metallica or Megadeth and the new school crunch and melodic death metal hue of Lamb of God or The Black Dahlia Murder.
Some of that comes via frontman Daniel Brand, whose occasionally grating yowl-and-holler delivery and barking cadence sounds like a mix of Black Dahlia's Trevor Strnad, L.O.G.'s Randy Blythe and now ex-Exodus singer Rob Dukes. And despite the somewhat sophomoric song titles, his lyrics are more hateful or resigned than humorous and hit pretty hard.
Expain actually are selling themselves a bit short by putting the focus on low-brow comedic shtick that is only really there on the surface. It might help grab them some attention they otherwise might not get – and, in small doses, it is a welcome change from the usual serious-as-a-heart-attack posturing - but these guys can certainly stand on the merits of their prowess. Sometimes there's no shame in taking the high road.