Exocrine – The Hybrid Suns Review

Almost exactly two years after the release of Exocrine’s last album, Maelstrom, the French tech-death quartet prepare to unleash their fifth full-length, The Hybrid Suns. When we last listened to Exocrine together, I noted their shift towards more epic proportions, bombastic concoctions, and fantastical flourishes. Where my personal favorite slab of Exocrine goodness, Molten Giant, was tight, tectonic and twisted, Maelstrom made every effort to drown everyone in layers of lush instrumentations, even featuring a brassy trumpet for additional effect. My original hope for them going forward at the time was to hear them better integrate those trumpets inside the same snug structures that made Molten Giant so successful. Exocrine had other plans.

Like so many other extreme metal acts, Exocrine crave evolution in their skills and sound. That being the case, it should come at no surprise that The Hybrid Suns abandons many of the stylistic choices that defined Maelstrom and Molten Giant while still respecting those albums’ imprint on the band’s career. Exocrine’s compositions retain a similar sense of grandeur despite the stripped down instrumentation. The Hybrid Suns is also a heavier and noticeably more br00tal record, recalling the days where Molten Giant smashed the Earth’s mantle with every riff, yet offering a distinct identity. None of these sonic evolutions negatively affected The Hybrid Suns as a genuine Exocrine album, either, as it remains a testament to their ability to write instantly recognizable material. Contrary to how I’ve described the band in the past, there’s now no mistaking Exocrine for anyone else.

Technical death metal albums almost always offer one or two standout tracks that make me weak in the spine. Not so with The Hybrid Suns. It’s almost impossible for me to choose a favorite song. The perpetrator of this inconvenience to my life and duty is The Almighty Riff™. Seriously, every fucking track here contains at least two, more often four, crazy riffs—and/or wiggly arpeggiated leads—that make my facial muscles contort, morphing this handsome sponge into a grotesque, greedy bottom-feeder. The opening title track speaks well enough for itself on that front, but then the Hideous Divinity-meets-Archspire hookfest of “Horns” happens, followed closely by the The Beast of Nod-by-way-of-Gorod groove gushing from “Watchtower.” Unsatisfied with an unstoppable first half, Exocrine unleashes a decidedly unfuckwithable four-track run between “End of Time,” the thrashy “Burning Sand,” “Blast,” and the super fun closer “Shrine.” It rapidly became clear after just a few spins that I’d never decide whether The Hybrid Suns is front-loaded or back-loaded. In reality, it’s probably just fully loaded.

Regrettably, the production is absolute ass. In fairness, everything is polished, the drum tones sound good for the genre, and the low end is bussin’-bussin’. But that doesn’t excuse the criminal compression committed here. The Hybrid Suns endured severe pressurization in the studio, leaving occasional clipping artifacts in their wake (“Vortex of Shadow”), and causing the albums’ more epic clauses to lose themselves in an impenetrable wall of squashed sound (“Dying Light”). Additionally, I question some of the band’s songwriting choices when it comes to the clean vocals. The vocals themselves are good, but the way the cleans and the growls overlap doesn’t coalesce in a pleasing manner. On the plus side, all of the choruses featuring cleans embed inside the brain deceivingly well. In the future, though, I recommend giving those clean choruses a tad more attention to better integrate them with the harsh vox.

Getting down to brass tacks, The Hybrid Suns is simply one of the best Exocrine records to date. If it weren’t for the extremely cramped production, I’d easily classify it as the best. While one or two elements outside the mastering could use massaging, everything else Exocrine attempted here succeeds without qualification. The riffs erupting out of this album’s snatched thirty-five minutes cannot be stopped, the performances are fast and sharp enough to escape black holes, and the overall aesthetic is still unquestionably Exocrine. A final note: know that I chose to score this album harshly—don’t miss out on killer technical death metal by flying past The Hybrid Suns without giving it at least one good orbit.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 3 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Label: Unique Leader
Website: facebook.com/Exocrine
Releases Worldwide: June 17th, 2022

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