I normally don’t go in for the whole instrumental rock thing, most of the time it comes across as either pretentious or lacking. Ex Eye’s self titled debut album is a completely different thing to most stuff out there though, with some of the tightest rhythmic playing I’ve ever heard, eternally interesting melodies and variation, and great song writing to boot. Crossing the boundaries of jazz, prog and straight up hard rock it’s an insanely technical, gorgeously produced album and one of the most out there things you’ll hear all year.
With its short length the opener at 3:55 being less than half the length of even the shortest of the other tracks on the album Xenolith; The Anvil is just a taster of the madness to come. Frenetic drum rhythms open the track before it settles down into some of the most gorgeously warm and groovy basslines you’ll ever hear along with smooth rhythmic saxaphone playing great cyclical melodies, psychdelic wah driven lead guitar in the background really completing the sound along with some subtle synths. There’s such a lot going on but with compositonal prowess with earworm melodies and constant slight changes, and a crystalline production that it’s just a treat for the ears. There’s some washed out high pitched grungy vocals over the top near the end, but it’s unclear whether they could be saxophone from the timbre of them. It’s a great way to show a statement of intent for the rest of the album.
Opposition/Perihelion; The Coil is the furthest thing from a catchy title but it does see Ex Eye kicking the album up a gear with a twelve and a half minute piece. More frenetic but tight drum rhythms open it up before some insanely impressive cyclical guitar riffs over the top of some fast bass slapping keeping the low end in check. It’s so fast, but what you can’t believe is the saxaphone. Even in that intro it sounds like he never pauses for a single breath and that’s before an insanely technical sax solo when the other instruments slack off for a bit, more fast and tight cyclical melodies, with yet more insane drums when the rest of the instruments kick back into it. It’s hard to believe the saxophonist could achieve this live. The textures of synths in the background give it a calming grounding in juxtaposition to the batshit instrumentational prowess on display from the other players. It constantly shifts with each instrument taking the lead and receding for a bit keeping you constantly interested before the 5 minute mark when it builds up into one of the fastest parts on the album where guitar, drums, bass and guitar just absolutely go for it, with blastbeats, more of that rabid saxaphone and even the synths get dramatic and more insistent. Dialing it back into some smooth bass and clean tone guitar chords just to give the saxophonist a few breaths of air, he then plays some smooth jazzy notes amidst some pink floyd level psychedelic atmosphere, before it once again amps up to insanity. People have said it’s blackened jazz, but the production is so crystalline, and the atmosphere so warm there’s no black metal to it whatsoever, blastbeats or not. It’s just a brilliant mix of progressive rock and jazz, if you could even begin to classify this.
The three remaining tracks show more of this technical wizardry but still retaining the capacity to write interesting and memorable songs, even with a bit of shoegazey reverb to the guitars on the atmospheric introduction on Anaitis Hymnal; The Arkose Disc (boy they sure write some catchy titles) before it explodes into another beautiful cacophony. One could go on and on about the enthralling nature of their experiments and technical skill, but suffice it to say that nothing here is superfluous, there’s no showing off or wankery, it’s all about melody, atmosphere and feeling, just delivered at an insane BPM.
Ex Eye is the most original rock album you’ll here all year. One could write volumes about their level of technical skill, but it’s their penchant for song writing and atmosphere that makes it so goddamn addictive. Buy it, spin it, pick your jaw up off the floor and play it on repeat over and over.