Exit a Head - Void (2018) Review
Exit a Head, in its essence, can not be defined. Diving into Void, the band's debut album released in 9 July 2018, you can hear the history of music from 1950 to present. Jazz seems to be the band's main passion besides prog metal. The album starts with jazzy Muzak, and ends with a piece reminiscent of Duke Ellington's Caravan. "In the beginning was silence, infinite vastness and ominous nothingness," they say, "in it was life." Apparently, life starts and ends with jazz, although getting more refined from start to end. In between, hard rock, prog metal, classical music, and the infinite capabilities of synthesizers merge to create a genre-bending piece of art. The band won two silver medals at the Global Music Awards, and for a good reason too.
1. Desafinado (2:11)
In this page's history, we've reviewed a lot of albums. But this one might as well be the warmest surprise we've got from album openers. "Desafinado" (usually translated as "Out of Tune") is originally a bossa nova standard, with many renditions ranging from Getz and Byrd to João Gilberto. Exit a Head manages to present their own take of the classic by incorporating many unique elements (like the navigator voiceover throughout the song) and an amazing saxophone performance. Yes, the song itself is not prog; but putting it as the opener for the rest of the album certainly deserves praise for its creativity and wit. Of course, they don't forget to connect the song's unique elements with the name of the band at the end.
2. Broken (4:20)
After the coffee table vibe of the previous song, Broken comes in straight with an unexpected sound. Little do we know at this point, the distorted hard rock guitar sound will become the basis of Void. Truthfully, the riffs are a bit clichéd, despite the band's claims of breaking "prog’s cliché-ridden repetitiveness." The subdivision changes, tempo changes, and the time signature changes in the end make the song unique. Exit a head is good at changing the rhythmic structure of their parts to play with tension or transition. Initially, I didn't pay much attention to the chords because I assumed they would be regular power chords. However, some chords include dissonances that I can only attribute to altered chords we normally hear in jazz. It's hard to incorporate jazzy chords into prog metal. Distortion usually fades otherwise acceptable intervals into each other, making it hard to listen to. Props to Chagnon for making it work.
3. The Ocean Awaits (4:06)
Many new progressive-rock bands lose their voice and the emotion in their songs while trying to play irregular times, or while trying to incorporate various instruments into the melody without making it sound forced. Exit A Head is obviously not one of these bands: a skillful combination of the drums and electric guitar, along with strong vocals, is all it takes for Exit A Head to put out a song that is not only intricate in terms of technique (for reference, see the sweep-picking in the electric guitar solo near the 2:40 mark) but also in terms of overall quality. It’s definitely interesting to see the two very different voices, the voice of Daniel Chagnon, paired with the high-pitched voice of another contributor, fit together in the song. Overall, The Ocean Awaits is a song that reflects the professionalism and originality of the band accurately.
4. Pyramid (4:08)
After the mellow guitar riffs of Ocean Awaits, Pyramid shakes the listener out of their emotional state with distorted riffs played in unorthodox time signatures, drawn out drum solos, and growls that are repeated intermittently. Although the band strongly urges its listeners to “stop trying to figure out what Exit A Head might sound like,” it’s impossible to un-hear the resemblance to Tool, and the drum solos that carry connotations from the improv nature of jazz. But these inspirations don’t mean that Exit A Head is a repetition of the established—quite the contrary. The combinations of these various genres is what makes Exit A Head’s sound original, and also the reason why they cannot be categorized into a certain sound.
5. Rise & Fall (8:41)
The unexpectedly happier chord progression gives rise to new horizon for the band's sound, after the melancholy induced riffs of the first half of the album. However with 16th noted guitar riffs coming in, we start to look the song from a more ryhtmic reference point where the onbeat drums resemble a ethnic disco-type feeling where you would also see it throughout SOAD's discography. The ethnic rythm combined with harmonic minor, there you have a total influence of the band that sets this song aside from all the other ones. Altough the song progresses on this direction, they were able to cut through this specifc atmopshere with a more melody induced solo. Rest of the song explores different and harmonic rythmic aproaches, where we are able to see more of the 12-123 divisioned 5/4 beats with dissonant guitar riffs of b5 intervals. The closing part is somehow adds to the song's whole feel, where only eery sound affects and scartching sounds that are coming from the guitar and other instruments were used to make a transition to the next song.
6. Void (1:14)
Being transitioned from a atmospheric transition section where all kinds of distrubing noises used to support a dark soundscape, we might infer at this point that we might have entered the "void". Unexpectedly, we don't face any kind of those eery notes, rather some jazzy 7th chords with inversions and modal interchanges create a resting-yet-creepy feeling to transfer us to the grand finale of the album--we are now in the Octopuss' garden.
7. Octopuss (6:07)
Starting with a slow and steady drum rhythm that keeps the whole song together, it takes some time for the song to feel complete. Although the guitar offers some variety and interest to the intro, the band could've experimented with more sounds to keep the listener's attention. Around the 1 and a half minute mark, the band pays off the long beginning with a dark and gritty atmosphere, especially with Julian Schlitzer's bass line which might have been purposefully amplified. We only get to hear the vocals around the 4-minute mark, which highlights the unusual and dispersed compositional style of the song. Daniel Chagnon's vocals are a perfect fit for a song like this as he can convey the ambiguous nature of the atmosphere with prolonged syllables. The song's sudden dive into distortion is not expected but definitely welcomed. Although the song overall feels simple, this last section adds the right kind of spice to pick up our attention before returning to the original melody - almost like a wink from the band.