Exist - _In Mirrors_
by: Dan Lake (4 out of 5)
One of the highest compliments one can pay a young band is that comparisons don't come easy. Sure, Exist highlight Meshuggah, Cynic, Tool, and King Crimson among their array of influences, and any informed listener can tease out those jazz-inflected prog-death elements without help. But from these influences, Exist build a distinctly personal identity, as any band worth some amp wattage should.

"Writhe" roars in with staccato riffs and aggressive, octopus-armed drum patterns. Singers Max and Weber have that rare discernible growl, all the more important because the transcendental lyrics speak to the core of the band's musical vision. At the halfway point, the band trades in their swirling fever for a deep, mounting groove and a clean and curly guitar solo. This entirely instrumental section builds back toward earlier intensity but doesn't quite reach it, setting the stage instead for the three-part title track.

While there are few moments of real tension on the EP, "In Mirrors" contains all of them, beginning with a bassy rumble and a few instrumental teases before the head-nodding beat drops. Part one, "The Pine", is dominated by spare guitar leads and relaxed, slightly anemic clean vocals; the listener has to wait for grander moments in part two for Max's voice to swell to its powerful potential. When the second verse ends and the bass and guitar stake out their territories with driving beat and distorted Chewbacca moans respectively, the nod deepens toward serious half-bang. The whispered vocals throughout the song work perfectly -- they are a harsh, chilling, and barely human touch added to the destruction wrought all around them. In fact, the growl-to-whisper switch at the 5:35 mark is hands-down my favorite moment here. "So We Are..." settles into a dreamy, synth-painted landscape where the guitar solo can wander slowly before attaching itself to a burly bass and drum attack. Final section "Equilibrium" gathers all the proggy promise of earlier moments and wraps them into a package of inventive guitar and bass solos, both chiming and melodic, before the whole piece finally quiets and comes to rest.

Certainly, some of the soloing tests this listener's patience, and not all of the vocal choices are as engaging as they might be, but the band gets considerable points because it all sounds so good. Far from the "intentional" murk so many unsigned bands labor under, Exist benefit from a mix where everything can be heard and all parts weave a focused and horns-worthy whole.

Contact: http://www.existband.com

(article published 6/2/2011)

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