French masters of Technical Death Metal, Exocrine, spearheaded by guitarist Sylvain Octor-Perez, return with their fifth full-length studio release, The Hybrid Suns, a concept album studying “the voyage between life and death.”
Exocrine – The Hybrid Suns (Unique Leader Records)
Release Date: 17 June 2022
Words: Jools Green
As always, The Hybrid Suns showcase jaw-dropping levels of musicianship that push the boundaries of extremity and precision playing, with an even sharper focus than predecessor Maelstrom. This was a breathtaking album in its own right, with its somewhat unusual inclusion of a haunting trumpet interlude and closer.
If a band can work trumpet into a Metal album, they’ll always grab my attention. Sadly no trumpet this time but there are still more than a few other delights contained within.
Opening and title track, The Hybrid Suns, bursts forth with some of the most exhilarating spiralling riffs you could wish for, immediately grabbing your attention, which is held by the brutal wall of riffing and drum battery that follows closely behind.
Continuing with more spiralling riffs, the driving Dying Light features additional backing vocals from French artist Clémentine Browne adding a haunting contrast to the growls. This powerful track ebbs back just enough to enable the impactful delivery of further brutal blows, along with impressive bursts of flawless leadwork.
I love the opener on Horns. It’s dark and sinister, followed by a roar of pig squeal vocals and insanely complex riffing. This track is superb, fast, complex and constantly shifts with seamless ease. There is a subtle groove to the undercurrent, making it brutal but engaging with little symphonic bursts from the keyboards and a drop away in the second half that makes space for a sultry burst of leadwork.
Watchtower has a slightly industrial-tinged undercurrent to its opener, adding yet another dimension of interest to this already massively appealing album. The second-half leadwork straddles the line between sublime and insane.
Vortex of Shadow sneaks up on you like a stealthy mechanised beast, but when it arrives, it’s both beautifully frenetic and brutally crushing in alternate waves. Then, in contrast, there is a clean technical interlude that spirals out into sumptuous leadwork.
End of Time is driving, urgent and dark, with punch, groove and superb spiralling riffing and, as always on these tracks, impressively unrelenting drum work and a beautiful complex two-phase contrasting lead passage in the second half.
With its clean guitar opener, Burning Sand allows a moment of reflection before bursting forth with a repeating technical riff, but there is the subtle traditional Death Metal element woven in there as well, along with a couple of industrial-inspired passages.
Blast literally lives up to its title but is far more than that; it’s awash with swathes of complex riffs, contrasted with hunting keyboards, adding an unnerving undercurrent that is so engaging, spinning off at a different tangent midway with seamless precision.
There is no drop in excellence with the final offering, Shrine. It’s frantic, complex, insanely driving, and enthrallingly engaging. It’s hard to believe this album is only thirty-six minutes long. So much is contained within, it feels way longer.
Written and produced by guitarist Sylvain Octor-Perez, the album was recorded at Triceraprod Studio and mastered at Roadster Lab, with the album artwork created by concept artist Tania Sanchez-Fortun.
Exocrine are a seriously underrated band; there is an enormous skill, technical mastery and experimentation involved in their work and the surprisingly short timescale they manage to release their albums within is impressive, given that Technical Death has a tendency to take more time to create and deliver due to the complexities of its construct.
The Hybrid Suns will definitely be of great interest to fans of Archspire as there are elements within the instrumentation that are a little reminiscent at times.