Exanimis – Marionnettiste


The trio of musicians in Exanimis met at France’s Music Academy International where they studied jazz. It’s a loss to the jazz world and a triumph for the metal scene that these virtuosos chose symphonic death metal as their calling. We already have two world-class bands of this ilk in Septicflesh and Fleshgod Apocalypse, and now we can add the name of Exanimis to this list with supreme confidence. As a debut album, this is one of the most ambitious records of the century so far.

You have every right to expect the musicianship to be at startling levels of brilliance, but these boys are off the charts. Holy fuck, lead guitarist, Julien Marzano, maintains a continuous rhythm of sweep-picking patterns for a full one minute and twenty seconds on ‘The Slow Flow of the Spume on the Shore’, while drummer, Clément Denys, demonstrates his mind-boggling jazz skills on ‘Stampede of the 10-000’ with a masterclass in polyrhythms. The latter is the type of pompous anthem unfamiliar to the death metal genre with its militaristic drum snares and syncopated guitar triplets marching forward like a Frankish army storming through Jerusalem at the beginning of the eleventh century. It’s a stupid question, but which metal fan would like to thrash away to the chanting of “Our cruelty is unparalleled/ Our brutality has no equal/ Never relinquished/ Never exhausted/ Our strength is endless”? If you answered no, you’re reading the wrong music publication. It’s Meshuggah with Yngwie Malmsteen on guitar and the imperious stride of The Voodoo Gods. Septicflesh will have a job to match this beast of a song on their next record.

Aside from Marzano’s guitar extravaganza, ‘The Slow Flow of the Spume on the Shore’ starts with ghostly vocal harmonies haunting the delicate guitar arpeggios like dead Viking soldiers appearing to their modern kinsmen in hallucinogenic dreams. The last thing you expect is a riff like Pantera’s ‘Shedding Skin’ to appear after the Triptykon mood change at 02:32 seconds. But the unexpected is the strength of this album. Their masterful opening with ‘The Wrathful Beast’ is a composition that mixes the head-spinning death metal of Morbid Angel with symphonic splashes to accent the parts where percussion would normally dominate. ‘Throne of Thornes’ takes a chilling Hitchcockian string ensemble and Phrygian mode melody and alternates between the two throughout. It’s clear their label mates in Luxembourg prog-metallers, Scarred, have also had an impact on the way they accommodate crunchy neo-classical guitar rhythms into the symphonic scores.

It’s easy to be dazzled by it all, and you may lose your sense of perspective. Unfortunately, Exanimis suffer from self-indulgence and invite you to criticise their inability to keep their songs below the eight-minute mark. Like the debut Periphery album, you soon realise this band want to include everything on their first offering so they can make a fresh start for their sophomore effort. This means sections of unnecessary fret-wanking take precedence where they should be constrained within a disciplined structure. ‘Cathedral’ is sixteen minutes in length and veers off into a three-minute tangent of superfluous guitar shredding. This is a shame because the way they incorporate the sinister gothic horror of a Danny Elfman film score with Devin Townsend and My Dying Bride is remarkable. One minute it’s symphonic doom metal, the next it’s Beetlejuice!

Looking ahead to the future is what we do at Scream Blast Repeat, and it’s frightening to think what capabilities these French prodigies possess if this is only their debut album. It may be too long, guilty of self-indulgence and just short of the latest Deception album, but Marionnettiste lays down a marker that only they, themselves, can better on their next release. Believe the hype and give this a listen.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 05/03/2021

Record Label: Klonosphere Records

Standout tracks: The Wrathful Beast, Stampede of the 10-000, The Slow Flow of the Spume on the Shore

Suggested Further Listening: Fleshgod Apocalypse – Labyrinth (2013), Carach Angren – Franckensteina Strataemontanus (2020), Scarred – Scarred (2021)