Album review: EXIST – So True, So Bound

Exist - So True, So Bound

Prosthetic Records [Release date 09.06.17]

I’ve made it no secret my undying love for all things Chuck Schuldiner (Death, Control Denied…not so much Voodookult) and even the band Cynic formed by former members of Death ranks as some of my favorite music.

Sadly, Chuck died before I was able to see him live. Enter Death To All, this amazing collection of musicians, mostly former members of Death, and this guy named Max Phelps, whom I was unfamilair with, assuming the illustrious role of Chuck Schuldiner for this incarnation. He truly did an amazing job.

I then find out his main band was called Exist. Sadly, as is what I typically do, I liked his band page on Facebook and promptly never thought about it again. Jump ahead again to late last year/early this year when I heard that legendary Tech Death band Gorguts was going on tour with this band Exist.

Since I didn’t check them out it didn’t register with me until my friend Dennis told me who was the main guy behind the band. I immediately went to their Bandcamp page and bought everything I could, including their latest release So True So Bound.

Newer Prog Metal, especially the stuff in the Djent sub-category, tends to not do it for me. There are a handful of bands I enjoy, but for the most part I avoid these bands like the plaque.

Though Exist, at their root sound, have Djent tendencies (that very aggressive rhythmn that the name is referring to,) it is merely a “beneath the surface” sound. On top of it is some of the most stunning musicianship you will hear.

Phelps delivers vocals that are one moment lulling and mesmerizing, then goes into this harsh, but unique growl that adds this tension on top of the underlying aggression, and on top of that are these lush guitar leads that simply enchant the listener.

This is honestly my favourite parts of these vastly complex pieces, being a former player myself, they’re just so haunting and compelling. The songs themselves are a brilliant dichotomy of jazzy pop textures delivered with this heavy metal dischord creating such musical intensity. So True So Bound isn’t an album you pop on for a cruise down the highway…this is brain music.

Yet Max isn’t the only component of Exist. With bassist extraordinaire Alex Weber, guitarist Matthew Rossa (who is no slouch on the axe himself alternating leads with Phelps,) and drummer Hannes Grossman (not to mention a solo from ex-Death/current DTA member Bobby Koelble) you have a collection of incredibly talented musicians.

One of the biggest complaints many lodge at Progressive Music is the lack of songs, but with tracks like “Take My Picture,” “Peer Prejudice,” and “Fault’s Peak” you’ve got exquisite musicianship on display, but some super catchy songs that also happen to be massively complex. Few Prog Metal bands can do both. And talk about cerebral, check out the mindbendingly sophisticated lyrics- just amazing.

I hate that I missed the boat on Exist earlier on. Two full length albums (including the brand new So True So Bound) and and EP, they have a small, but vastly brilliant catalog. If you like to give your ears and brain a workout, Exist is the perfect band for that. Plus, they’re just as brilliant live as on record, as well as super nice guys.  *****

Review by Chris Martin


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