Album: Exxiles – Reminiscence
Released: September 20, 2021
Genre: Cinematic Symphonic Progressive Power Metal
Posted by: Lacy Mucklow/Phoenix
Rating: 3.5/5 Stars
Exxiles is a symphonic progressive band with a cinematic flair, founded in 2012 by Mauricio Bustamante in 2012 after he parted ways with Reign of the Architect. A global group with contributing members from many countries, Exxiles released their first album, Oblivion, in 2015. Now, 6 years later, Exxiles is back with returning and new contributors, including Chris Caffery (TSO, Savatage), Derek Sherinian (former Dream Theater, Sons of Apollo), Wilmer Waarbroek (Ayreon), David Akesson (Moonlight Agony), Oddleif Stensland (Communic), and Donna Burke (Metal Gear Series, Silent Hill, Final Fantasy). On their sophomore album, Reminiscence, they offer up 12 tracks for consideration.
Creation opens the album in true cinematic form, with orchestration and sound effects that at first seem playful, but soon reveal themselves to be more ominous. The choral vocals have a Carmina Burana feel to them, and then segue into a Middle Eastern duduk-driven segment that fades out as it prepares for the second track, Last Commun Ancestor. This song begins with more doomy cinematic openers with vocals helmed by David Akesson and Arthanis Calafalas. The metal groove begins after the first verse with the symphonic elements underneath throughout with syncopation growing throughout the track until the end, fading out with synths into Lucy, the third track. David Akesson continues the vocals here, and follows in much the same vein, but drops in the middle of the song to a somber chamber-like moment with low strings and piano only under the vocals, with animal sounds in the background to augment the song’s lyrical content. It builds up again in cinematic fashion both with the metal and symphonic elements, culminating in the first guitar solo of the album just past the halfway point. There is some reprising of former elements of the song as the track progresses in the second half, ending with an interesting juxtaposition of piano and bass only with sounds of running water.
Alone, the fourth track, starts solemnly with a piano alone. Soon, vocalist Arthanis Calafalas enters ethereally on this music box-type ballad that changes the ambiance of the album. This short, three-and-a-half-minute song has a mixture of synths, strings, and vocals with a melancholy, dirge-like feel that reflects the theme of the title, ending with spoken word. David Akesson returns on vocals on the next couple of tracks. The fifth track, entitled Giordano Bruno, begins with the sound of horsehooves trotting with an orchestral cinematic underpinning, until about a minute and a half into the song, when it shifts into overdrive, increasing tempo, intensity, and bass-driven metal accompaniment with a solid groove that continues in kind for another 4-5 minutes, ending with the sound of fire and a crowd, illustrating the burning at the stake of the Italian friar and philosopher by the Inquisition for heresy. In Some Place, the sixth track, begins forlornly with solo piano and later, vocals enter to continue the melancholic mood of this stark four-minute song.
You Don’t Own Me begins with piano and strings, featuring cello more prominently until vocalist Donna Burke enters, and shifts a little more bluesy/jazzy in nature. David Akesson returns in the second verse and continue in a duet supported by a plethora of background vocals as the song gets busier and mutlilayered until the end as it winds down back to piano only with humming underneath singular vocals to fade the track out. The eighth track is titled Soulseekers, which continues with the melancholy nature of the album overall, featuring vocalist Oddleif Stensland while David Akesson again returns as the song builds into a heavier piece after some vocal counterpoint. This track is only 4 minutes long, but it covers quite a bit of musical territory, including a lengthier guitar solo toward the latter half of the song until it fades into piano and some portato strings.
Take Me Home changes tack quite a bit as it sounds more like a country-style intro with acoustic guitar and clapping, like you would hear people jamming on a front porch together. David Akesson handles the vocals again on this singer-songwriter type piece underscored by the sounds of a thunderstorm. A bluesy electric guitar solo punctuates the middle of this easy-going song while the vocals return and the piece continues in the same vein until the end fade. Words of Humanity changes gears completely with a synth-heavy, sci-fi sounding cinematic instrumental piece for the first third. The bluesy guitar enters again to shift the mood and feel of the song, while soundbytes of Martin Luther King, Jr. enter into the track. The song shifts again to a more heavy metal style while sounds of gunfire are heard underneath until the guitars fade out toward the end and the piano enters to close out the song with a final somber chord.
The eleventh track, Unstoppable Rising Tide, starts off in traditional heavy metal style. Featuring Oddleif Stensland and David Akesson on vocals, this song pushes forward with the traditional metal sound primarily, but is punctuated by progressive elements with a keyboard solo, syncopated rhythms, and countermelodies in the latter half. The countermelodies begin to get a little busy with the music also in the background, but when they go a capella, they tend to work better with greater clarity. The last song is called The Judgement (Dark Renaissance Part II), and Wilmer Waarbroek appears on this finale to do the vocal honors. As to be expected, this song is dark, keeping with the general somber and melancholy mood of the album as a whole, further accentuating the theme of judgment, with a drone under low vocals and outgoing percussion as a final end.
Musically, this album is fairly diverse and showcases several styles of music. It knows how to be epic as well as where to be contained when needed. The cinematic sound effects with some of the songs add additional layers that lend to the storytelling of the album. However, the area throughout the album in general that I felt could have been stronger was in the vocal arena. Having a variety of vocalists can have its strengths, especially in the realm of roles and storytelling, but the vocal timbre and quality need to match the music accompanying the vocal melodies, and for me, this did not hit all the marks for my ears. Others may hear it differently and have a contrary opinion, but regardless, there is no doubt that this album has a lot of aspirations and sets the bar high with their expectations. With a cast of top names in the progressive metal and other musical genres, this is an admirable effort put forth by Mr. Bustamante, et al. The cinematic elements work well together and provide another audial ride for the listener; its overall theme is more somber and melancholy in their approach, which may appeal to many fans. Hear for yourself and you be the judge!
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