Canberra's I Exist burst onto the collective consciousness last year with an album, 'I: A Turn For The Worse', that almost single handedly knocked into a cocked hat all those tired 'Canberra? A musical wasteland' jibes that crop up every now and then when people from the other capital cities of Australia have nothing better to do.
Well, the good news for the legions of fans that that album garnered is that the band is back already with a sophomore effort, and the bad news for those Canberra knockers is that its even better than the first one.
As is often the way with bands that are heading in the right direction, there's not a radical change in the way the band is doing things this time around – there's just more of everything, and it's all done better.
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The one thing to notice over all is that, for a hardcore band, there's an awful lot of metallic riffage going on here; at times the barrage is so intense it brings to mind prime time Napalm Death (vocalist Jake Willoughby has perfected a bellowing, Barney Greenwayesque howl that complements the sonic holocaust unfurling around him perfectly) or even d-beat monsters Disgust.
The production work (by the band alongside sludge/doom guru Billy Anderson) is monstrous, allowing the monolithic likes of Black Unicorn to utterly crush anything in its path. As David Bowie so acutely pointed out once – this ain't rock n'roll... its genocide.
Not that 'II: The Broken Passage' is all unidimensional howling at the moon. Floating in midway through the album is 'The Riders Ode', which, mesmerisingly in the midst of all the filth and fury we've been subjected to thus far sounds like something that may or may not have been mislaid by Led Zeppelin during the recording of their third album. Amazing.
Still, this is young man's music we're talking about, so after that gossamer four and a half minutes is finished with we're back to the sturm und drang, this time in the form of the spikily aggressive 'Lungs Of Mire'. It's another breakneck bruiser, all slitty eyed defiance and 'come and have a go if you think you're hard enough' bravado, but it's still Metal.
The overt hardcore feel that the band seems to be in the process of shedding slightly doesn't really come to the fore until the shredding 'Fleshold' comes rattling out of the speakers.
This track's feel is reinforced by the staccato battering of 'Mammoth Falls', which keeps the pace and intensity up yet still manages to add enough melodic punch and songwriting dynamism to the mix to keep interest high even if you're non committal about this kind of palaver; 'Mammoth...' is the best example of the fact that the biggest ace in I Exist's pack is their ability to turn musically on a dime; not in a high falutin' proggy sense, y'unnerstand... but more in the manner of never letting any part of any song outstay its welcome when they know another slamming riff or breakdown is just around the corner – and that makes 'II:TBP' a genuinely exciting, and interesting album to listen to.
All this wittering and I haven't even mentioned the album's best track, the epically opulent 'Wretched Earth'. It's genuinely uplifting to be able to report just how good this band is becoming and, with time on their side that process is only going to be an ongoing one.
If you're not already on the I Exist bandwagon, I suggest you clamber aboard now and strap yourselves in – this is going to be one hell of a ride...