From the heart of the south, Atlanta metal band From Exile are one of the few bands out there that refuse to be pigeonholed. Self dubbed as “progressive thrash metal” they truly transcend that, touching nearly every style of melodic metal out there on Monolith, the band’s second full length album. Currently, From Exile is only comprised of two members, and the band is without a label.
Instantaneously when I began playing Monument I knew I was onto something interesting. Upon the first guitar chord, my only thoughts were about how horrible the recording/mastering work on this album was going to be. Fortunately, it was just an adjustment/placement issue. Upon further listening, the sound of the album turned out to be the defining factor for the album. When I spoke with Eric (guitars, keys, vocals), he said “it is truly a massive record” – something I was immediately skeptical of. I wish that I could come up with some better way to describe the album as succinctly as Eric, but I can’t. I simply concur, and state: this is one massive record.
More interesting than the sound itself is the styles the band plays in, and the incredible songwriting on the album. Unlike band such as Opeth, metal bands regarded as incredible songwriters, From Exile does not need fifteen minutes to write an incredibly deep and engaging song. The whole album spans only a mere 32 minutes, but is some of the most dense and prolific composing I have heard in such as small time frame. Monolith features a substantial amount of complex guitar work, including guest solos from Eyal Levi and Emil Werstler (of Dååth). Among all the dense and complex musicianship on the album, there is a lot of material I feel as though I have heard before. Not in the sense that it is old and played out, but a warm and familiar way. From Exile have presented many themes from their various influences with a fresh take, almost in a nostalgic way at times.
Easily the most shocking part of the album is the incredible lack of vocals. Amidst the fourth track on the album, “Exhumed”, I realized I had only heard a small handful of vocal lines, none of which were memorable or recognizable, even after a few more listens. At such a short length, the lack of vocals is the biggest downside of the album, though does nothing to lessen the listener experience. In fact, the lack of prominent vocals on the album only solidifies the band in their niche among the “post-metal” and “instrumetal” acts that play off the ambience factor.
Even after sixteen listens through the album, I always run into the same problem: there needs to be more. When the last second of the last track ends, I am not ready or prepared, even given the feel of “In The Faded Silence”. During the album it feels stretched out and that more time has elapsed than really has, but upon finishing the album it is noticeably too short. This is not to say Monolith is an empty or incomplete work. Imagining anything else on this album would ruin it, much like it would ruin Cynic’s Traced in Air to add anything more to its 34 minutes of music. A full and complete work that is compelling enough to deserve more time, but leaves the listener unsatisfied enough to be hooked like a junkie.
Crushing blows followed by majestic and glorious guitar solos, this is most definitely an album that fans of quality shred must hear. For those who are fans of brilliant songwriting, this is also a must hear. For those people who like hook-laden and vocal-centric metal, there is nothing at all here for you. Little to no vocals or obvious hooks can be found on Monolith. When you put this album on, be sure that you have set aside time to listen to it in its entirety, both to do it justice, and because you won’t be able to stop listening until the album is over.
Track picks: “Apparition” and “Veritas”
For fans of: Kris Norris, Dååth, and good quality guitar work
Overall Score: 8 out of 10 devil horns
If this review has piqued your interests, you can buy the album from the band’s MySpace page for only $7.