rating icon 9 / 10

Track listing:

01. Maelstrom
02. The Kraken
03. Wall of Water
04. Abyssal Flesh
05. Orbital Station
06. The Wreck
07. Starvation Project
08. The Chosen One
09. Galactic Gods

If you heard EXOCRINE's last album, "Molten Giant", then you will be well aware that the Frenchmen are definitely not just here to make up the numbers. Technical death metal often gets overlooked in the great post-millennial subgenre free-for-all, but it's bands like this and albums like "Maelstrom" that are pushing the boundaries of extremity with the most gusto right now. As with all great death metal releases, the clincher comes when your jaw hits the floor and you splutter out the simple phrase, "Holy shit!": EXOCRINE are, in the best possible way, an absolutely ridiculous bunch of musicians, collectively armed with speed, intensity and precision on a level that, while not unprecedented, is still pretty fucking impressive. And that's before you hear the trumpet at the end of "Wall of Water".

"Maelstrom" begins with its title track, and it's a startling onslaught of great ideas, all delivered by what appears to be an eight-legged machine of some kind. But where many of their brutal and technical peers might be satisfied with a dizzying succession of riffs and tempo changes, EXOCRINE have a progressive streak a mile wide, and it's the avalanche of deft touches, unexpected detours and moments of exquisite melodic power that separates everything here from the vast majority of like-minded music being made in 2020.

"The Wreck" is a particularly devastating example of this band's left-of-center ethos. From the ghostly jazz intro to some of the sickest goregrind blasts and porcine squealing you'll ever hear, via jazz-infused instrumental meanderings and more; it's a masterclass in wringing freshness and verve from a well-established formula. Meanwhile, EXOCRINE's drummer is hitting speeds that may well be illegal in more conservative parts of France, before another (muted) trumpet wails over the sound of waves crashing on the shore. This is so far from cookie-cutter modern death metal that it may bring a tear to your eye.

It's not all hyper-complex synapse-evisceration, mind you: "Maelstrom" has numerous hooks hidden within its tightly coiled structures. "Starvation Project" showcases the Frenchmen at their most succinct; still hurling a laudable number of perverse ideas into the mix while allowing an almost OPETH-like sense of melodic grandeur provide the song's central focus. At the other end of the scale, finale "Galactic Gods" feels like a fiery-eyed demonstration of EXOCRINE's collective prowess; tech-death delivery, jazz fusion spirit, cinematic flair, virtuosity pushed to the absolute max but still driven by that age-old desire to move the crowd. If fans do circle pit to this stuff in the near future, they may find themselves burrowing into the Earth's core rather swifter than anticipated.

In an already excellent year for the genre, France's premiere technicians have just boldly gone a little bit further than everyone else. Holy shit, indeed.

Author: Dom Lawson
  • facebook
  • twitter
  • reddit
  • email

Comments Disclaimer And Information

BLABBERMOUTH.NET uses the Facebook Comments plugin to let people comment on content on the site using their Facebook account. The comments reside on Facebook servers and are not stored on BLABBERMOUTH.NET. To comment on a BLABBERMOUTH.NET story or review, you must be logged in to an active personal account on Facebook. Once you're logged in, you will be able to comment. User comments or postings do not reflect the viewpoint of BLABBERMOUTH.NET and BLABBERMOUTH.NET does not endorse, or guarantee the accuracy of, any user comment. To report spam or any abusive, obscene, defamatory, racist, homophobic or threatening comments, or anything that may violate any applicable laws, use the "Report to Facebook" and "Mark as spam" links that appear next to the comments themselves. To do so, click the downward arrow on the top-right corner of the Facebook comment (the arrow is invisible until you roll over it) and select the appropriate action. You can also send an e-mail to blabbermouthinbox(@)gmail.com with pertinent details. BLABBERMOUTH.NET reserves the right to "hide" comments that may be considered offensive, illegal or inappropriate and to "ban" users that violate the site's Terms Of Service. Hidden comments will still appear to the user and to the user's Facebook friends. If a new comment is published from a "banned" user or contains a blacklisted word, this comment will automatically have limited visibility (the "banned" user's comments will only be visible to the user and the user's Facebook friends).