From Exile - Crushing Reality

posted by Greg, Monday May 22, 2006 @ 12:42:43 PM

Artist: From Exile (
Album: Crushing Reality

Rating: 8.5/10

Recommended Tracks: Cataclysm, Soliloquy of Death, Crushing Reality

To start this review, I'll let you in on a little secret of what part of the glamourous position of college radio metal show host entails: we have to listen to a lot of crap. And by crap I mean every single god-awful cringe-inducing metalcore band churned off the Generic Metal Band 101 assembly line touted by the record labels as the next At The Gates that turn out to be the audio equivalent of your toilet bowl if you forced yourself to eat Taco Bell from a dumpster for a month straight. So, on the rare days we get stuff sent to us that actually passes for listenable, it makes us Wrekage hosts sit up and take notice. Furthermore, if we get an actual good release from a local band it's like getting a double whammy of unexpected goodness. Enter Atlanta's own From Exile's debut full-length album Crushing Reality, which shone like a beacon of bright light amongst all the bullshit Bullet For My Dozen Avenged Autumn Shadows As They Lay Dying bands yours truly's ears have been punished by lately. How refreshing it was to listen to metal that seems to have been composed with the expectation that the listener actually has half a brain instead of having sing-songy choruses and hooks thrown their way in radio friendly 4-minute blocks.

Crushing Reality is leaps and bounds better than any of the band's previous material, which came dangerously close at times to treading the waters of the generic metalcore previously mentioned. Instead, this album delivers solid performance after solid performance that at times simultaneously recalls the glory days of old In Flames, the first two Opeth albums, and Powerslave-era Iron Maiden to name a few. It's like there's a 1996 Swedish melodic death metal revival party in your ears, and everyone's invited. Guitarists Eric Guenther and Ben Wetzelberger effortlessly bounce sweeping and soaring guitar harmonies off each other over the course of the album, anchored by Beau Mackinlay's bass work (which you can actually hear thumping away in the mix - a rarity in metal albums these days), and a monster performance behind the kit by Vince Jarocki, who handles the complicated blending of genres throughout the course of the album with ease. Beau's vocals are also a strong point of focus over the entirety of the album, as he manages to pull off a mid-range throaty rasp/growl that sounds like a blend between Ihsahn and Steve Austin of Today Is The Day (though with much less of a venomous tone than either one), which compliments the music rather than overshadowing it.

The band describes their sound as progressive thrash, and that's a very accurate description given how each song on the album ranges from all out balls to the wall thrash to a full on melodic death shredding assault to deep, introspective, moody passages and back again, often within minutes of the same song. Most non-instrumental tracks clock in at well over the 5 minute mark, including the 8-minute title track and the epic, sprawling 11 minute album finale, fittingly titled "Finale". The clear album highlight is the Opethian 12-minute plus track called "Soliloquy of Death", which opens with a rapid-fire galloping head nodding fist pumping riff and features several Jester Race-era In Flames-style acoustic guitar breaks, a mixture of death and clean vocals, and a complete blend of pretty much every style of metal short of hardcore and grindcore you can think of. Off the top of your head try to think of a band out right now that can pull all that off, that can pull off that many seamless style changes in just one song as opposed to one album, much less stretch that kind of vibe out over the course of 12 and a half minutes yet never sound boring or repetitive the whole time. Once you're done drawing a blank, from now on you can make From Exile the answer to that question.

I was very surprised at how excellent this album is, given my only prior knowledge of the band was their older, more generic demo stuff I'd heard. What we have on Crushing Reality is a band serving notice to not only the Atlanta metal community but to the world that they are a serious force to be reckoned with, a band ready to take the next step and become leaders in the (hopefully) impending musical revolution against the wave of cookie cutter medio-core bands glutting the scene right now. If you are looking for a band that combines the sickly sweet guitar artistry of pre-Colony In Flames or pre-Angela Arch Enemy, coupled with the musical fearlessness and experimentalism of an Opeth or an Enslaved, then prepare to have what you know as your current musical reality crushed by Crushing Reality.

- Greg

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