Exist – Egoiista Review

It wasn’t until a couple of months ago that I heard of Exist.1 However, this Baltimore band has been around for over a decade, with their debut EP coming out back in 2010, and Egoiista is the group’s third full-length release. Most of the material here was conceived at the same time as the band’s last album, 2017’s So True, So Bound, and has been honed and refined over the past few years. Max Phelps is the leader here. He had a brief stint as guitarist in Cynic earlier this decade, and one can definitely hear that influence at times on Egoiista. This is a modern progressive metal album in the sense that it makes use of plenty of instrumental dynamics, and plenty of clean/harsh vocal transitions. Plenty of bands do this; not all succeed. So how about Exist?

Egoiista opens in alluring fashion. “Through Suffering He Paints the Universe” is a ten-minute example of instrumentally superior prog metal. Don’t let the funeral doom-y song title fool you: this ten-minute opener is full of twists and turns, morose guitar notes morphing into bendy phrases much like we would hear from King Crimson in their ConstruKction of Light era. Phelps’ clean vocal has a certain charisma to it. Much like Kevin Moore on his old O.S.I. albums, it’s perhaps not the most technically perfect voice, but it has a sort of hazy, whimsical feel to it, successfully drawing us into the lyrics. The song slowly ramps up, complete with intriguing keyboard arrangements, making the song one of my favorite prog tracks of the year, aside from the harsh vocals.

Exist’s penchant for perfectly straddling the technical/melodic line in their songs is evident throughout Egoiista. “The Lottery” alternates between exquisite and djent moments, and is always engaging. “Infinite Monkey Theorem,” the longest song, maintains a menacing mood as it blasts through our conscience, weaving intricately through a multitude of motifs. “Siblings Born Into Different Dimensions” introduces an almost shoegaze aspect to the album, while short interlude “Last Flight Looming” is two minutes of sustained guitars that Jimmy Page or David Gilmour would love, and closer “Amongst the Trees” is a classic slow-burner, gloomy and retrospective as it glides through its eight-plus minute length, a wonderful example of progressive restraint both instrumentally and vocally – the absence of harsh singing is a boon here.

Over the last few years, Exist have reviewed, honed, and refined the songs presented here. Lyrically, Phelps draws primarily from his recent life-threatening experience of having had an abdominal aneurysm. Musically, as the band has matured and new drummer Brody Taylor-Smith has imbued the tracks with additional percussive depth, the songs have ripened nicely. If only we could say the same about Phelps’ harsh vocals, which are among the weakest I’ve heard in some time, and most certainly Egoiista’s Achilles heel. Interestingly, Phelps possesses a fantastic harsh scream, but when singing it simply doesn’t work, neither technically nor from the seeming random arrangement of harsh-clean vocals.

There’s a lot to like about Egoiista. The whole band is technically strong, nailing their parts and keeping the listener engrossed musically. Arrangements are engaging and unpredictable, and while the band displays plenty of chops, they don’t overdo it. Phelps’ clean vocals have an intriguing quality to them, but his harsh tone needs some work, as does the seemingly random vocal arrangement. Essentially, the harsh vocals add nothing to the songs, proving to be a distraction rather than a boon. Improving these – or making less use of them – would go a long way in taking Exist to the next level.

Rating: 3.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps MP3
Label: Prosthetic Records
Websites: exist.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/Exist
Releases Worldwide: August 28th, 2020

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  1. Hopefully at least one person gets this.
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