1476 – In Exile Review

Well, 1476’s In Exile is certainly more than I bargained for. Having dropped my previous promo for this week because I had suspicions about the political leanings of its members (that it was bollocks made this a happy development), I picked up 1476 on a whim. And it’s a lot. Of many things. A lot of music, clocking in at over an hour. A lot of styles and influences—the accompanying blurb describes In Exile as “wonderfully all over the place”; the latter part of that statement isn’t wrong but the adverb, we’ll see. A lot of pressure, as Her Blackness Madam X reviewed (and 4.0ed) 1476’s last effort, Our Season Draws Near, and it has been made known to me that I can expect a shiv in the night if I fuck up this review. Will In Exile, the fourth full-length record from this Salem, Massachusetts duo,1 get me knifed in my sleep?2

I’ll be honest, I haven’t been as bewildered as I have been by In Exile for a long time. Even having listened to some of 1476’s back catalog, I wasn’t quite prepared for how … disparate the record would be. As Madam X noted, Our Season Draws Near drew together the Neoclassical and experimental soundtrack of 2016’s Edgar Allen Poe: A Life of Hope & Despair and the tribal elements of EP Smoke in the Sky, combining them with something approaching crust punk (“Ettins” and “Winter of Winds”) to create a quite unique sound. In Exile is Our Season Draws Near on acid. Chaotic, unpredictable, lacking anything approaching a discernible structure, it slams together influences ranging from Sólstafir’s Endless Twilight of Co-Dependent Love and Great Brunswick Forest by Thrawsunblat to The Clash, The Cult and early Blue Öyster Cult, and even the raucous bar vibes of Dropkick MurphysThe Meanest of Times, albeit with the most overtly Celtic vibes stripped out.

Careening from synth-tinged post-rock (“Lapis Fire Through the Mist”) to rowdy punk-edged folk (“Tristesse in Exile”), leering into a neofolk show (“Where Kings Fall”) and then staggering, somewhat the worse for wear, into the edges of post-black metal (“When Comes the Dawn” and “Carnelian Fire the Gallows”), 1476 finally slithers down behind a dumpster on a blues-adjacent semi-acoustic ballad, which unexpectedly hits a beat that sounds suspiciously like Killing Joke (“Where are you?”). Each song on In Exile is said to represent a different world, each being someone’s personal afterlife, and they are certainly worlds apart. Multi-instrumentalist Robb Kavjian—who handles everything from guitars to mandolin, hurdy-gurdy and keys—also brings what Madam X dubbed his “varied vocal style.” After a dozen or more listens to In Exile, I still can’t decide whether I love, hate, or am merely bemused by the vocals, which veer wildly from deep, rhythmic crooning and folk-inspired singing, to belting out (slightly nasal) up-tempo rock vocals and punk-esque barks.

Did I mention that 1476 has a lot going on? I feel like you need to know that. You should also know that, putting the vocals to one side for a second, the performances are stellar. The guitars, both electric and acoustic, sound great, with some genuinely memorable leads and melodies, while the folk elements in the mandolin and hurdy-gurdy are deployed with skill. Kavjian’s partner in crime, Neil DeRosa handles drums and percussion, serving up everything from tribal rhythms to d-beat energy, and all with aplomb. The production is a little rougher around the edges than I would choose, and the vocals—I said I’d return to them—are distractingly loud in places, or in styles, perhaps more accurately. They are also wild. Wildly varied and with a sort of wild abandon in their delivery that is the defining feature of In Exile.

To say that 1476 threw the kitchen sink at In Exile overlooks the fact that they first smashed said receptacle into pieces. The resulting shards are sharp, cutting and wildly uneven, in everything from tone and pacing to style and mood. That disunity is the uniting feature of In Exile’s material. Yet, somehow, it hangs together and has a charm to it, and, while I expect Kavjian’s vocals to be hugely divisive, they are oddly hypnotic and compelling. Indeed, a more interesting (if not classically “good”) frontman you’ll struggle to find. How to score In Exile. *exhales air slowly between pursed lips* It is the very definition of Mixed but it has an emotional honesty running through its core that has slowly wormed its way into my heart and … I think I kind of love it. Sort of. It’s complicated.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Prophecy Productions
Websites: 1476.bandcamp.com | 1476cult.com | facebook.com/1476cult
Releases Worldwide: July 7th, 2023

Show 2 footnotes

  1. There is also an EP, Smoke in the Sky, and there was a fifth album, 2009’s A Wolf’s Age, which was 1476’s debut but has now been “discontinued” by the band and expunged from its discography.
  2. Honestly, I would wake you up first so you can fully experience the shivalry. – Steel
« »