Exist is a band featuring musicians who have been in Jeff Loomis’ touring band and Cynic.
Frontman Max Phelps (Cynic) has been providing vocals on the most recent Death To All tours. With Exist, he gets to show off what he can do with his own music. Which happens to be a lot.
Sunlight is a bit of a misnomer; the album is frequently discordant, purposefully ugly at times and tends to shift from one shade of darkness to the next without many hints of light. The fusion metal created by Exist is unique, refusing to adhere to formulaic structures or do anything you expect it to at all. This also means it’s quite a niche listen, and some people may turn away from this record feeling non-plussed. Those who are expecting a prog metal album in the vein of Dream Theater might not be so thrilled by this record, but those who come with an open mind to its experimental tangent will think it’s great.
There are definitely traces of Cynic’s Focus-era work in Sunlight and more than a mild dose of Allan Holdsworth’s insane chord voicings and unexpected melodic progressions. But this record is a whole lot heavier. Writhe sets a crunching, staccato guitar riff into motion and the growled vocals immediately set the darkened scene. A less polished version of Writhe appeared on their EP In Mirrors which you can download for any price (including free) here:
The exception to the ‘heavy’ rule is the softly-spoken Vessels, which is very reminiscent of Gordian Knot’s gentler tracks. A hypnotic guitar refrain echoes throughout the track, accompanied by a synth weaving in and out of the lulling singing. It’s a beautiful track and serves to show the range of Exist’s songwriting talents, adding another dimension to the record in between the preceding heavy chug of Like The Weather and the following If Or When which treads a fine, if disharmonious, line between the two ends of the spectrum.
I don’t think that Exist will find mass appeal – they’re quite ‘out there’ with their compositions. They are, however, true artists who could gain the same kind of cult following Cynic enjoy quite easily. For anyone unsure of which side of the fence they’ll land on? You have very little to lose – digital versions of the album are available for a $2 price tag. That’s hardly breaking the bank. Plus, metal fans who tend to like more mainstream releases and usually err on the side of the caution with their purchases will probably at least enjoy the heavy hitters like Writhe and Self-Inflicted Disguise.
They’ll also enjoy the title track, because it’s a punch in the gut that’s hard to forget. The bass takes centre stage for much of the song, pumping along steadily with technical but groovy lines, and the drums build to a crescendo as noise slowly envelops the entire track. Female vocals lead the clean outro, allowing the sunlight to finally enter your eyes.
Exist are likely to be a big player in the future of fusion metal. Sunlight is an excellent demonstration of their top-notch writing skills.
They offer something completely different to the current progressive scene, an alternative sound that is both intriguing and compelling.