Exosphere - Nightmares review

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Band: Exosphere
Album: Nightmares
Release date: January 2021

01. Intro Noise
02. Godsmoke
03. Hellbound
04. Nightmare Prelude
05. Nightmare I: Lysergic
06. Nightmare II: Ascendancy
07. Nightmare III: Visionary [feat. Evan Van Dyne]
08. Excess Noise
09. Run [bonus]

A progressive sludge album is not exactly the last place I'd expect to hear echoes of middle-period Death - I mean, in the grand scheme of things, all subgenres of metal are right next to each other. It's not like this is turbofolk or zydeco or synthwave. Still, it was a little surprising making it halfway into Nightmares and going, "Wait, 'Lack Of Comprehension'?"

Drawing a favorable comparison to Death is almost literally the highest praise I know how to offer an artist, and it's not undeserved; though song-to-song correlations are thankfully minimal, what Exosphere has inherited from this self-proclaimed influence is an innate understanding of intelligent songwriting, working on a level deeper than simple riff-and-hook craft. The songs on this album eschew common clichés, and while "Godsmoke" and "Hellbound" owe something to the chug/scream of sludge and the fuzz/whine of stoner, after a certain point no genre is truly recognizable in Nightmares for more than a brief snippet. Jerky breakdowns, moody atmospheres, and noodly avalanches fall right next to each other, and a riff that is one moment drowning in distortion could the next be doubled into a bright harmony; a vocal part that follows that riff for one line might be off into the stratosphere for the next.

Solid grooves abound, but Exosphere has a playful dimension of the sort evident in the work of Nekrogoblikon, System Of A Down, and others, a tendency to suddenly slip away from bludgeoning sludge into any miniature melody that takes the band's fancy. Much of this versatility can be credited to the wide array of vocal techniques at the band's disposal: stretching his voice and his delivery to fit whatever style or mood each song pursues at any given moment, lead vocalist Jackie Frank Russell III fills this album with grunting, growling, shrieking, ominous operatics, and smooth shots into feathery falsetto. Not only does he demonstrate uncommon flexibility in technique and incredible range, but an over-the-top magnetism comes stapled to each thoroughly articulated utterance; Mike Patton and Devin Townsend are obvious comparisons, and as further proof of excess personality Russell has his own series of releases that delve even further into taste-defying avant-meme-core.

Exosphere itself is not quite as unhinged, retaining some sense of reality, but there is certainly a lot more to Nightmares than angry, distorted riffs and raw screaming; on this album, composition is key, not so much the ability to destroy with sound, and the transitions from manic to brutal come swiftly enough that Nightmares has other ways of keeping its listeners from growing too comfortable. At times, the guitars remind me of Melt-Banana's Ichirou Agata, putting squealing feedback and repetitive tapping into service as the foundation for songs rather than as a break from them. As if the squawking leads weren't enough, the band's comfort with pure noisescapes is emphasized by the whirlpools of abrasive tones found in opener "Intro Noise" (teehee) and closer "Excess Noise" (teeheehee).

I have to admit that my favorite song is probably the bonus track, "Run," which is a savagely heavy exploration of what happens when you put Heavy As A Really Heavy Thing-era Strapping Young Lad, Psudoku, and Dimmu Borgir into a blender; it's a brief vision of what life would be like if Exosphere focused entirely on shredding nerds and snorting caveman riffs. Still, the woozy and sometimes appropriately nightmarish weirdness of the album proper is a great surprise for a debut, and from the moment that "Godsmoke" first imitates a fire alarm strangling itself to the crude parlor swing of "Nightmare Prelude" to the colorful prog grooves of "Nightmare III: Visionary," Nightmares is packed with well-managed style and well-written tunes.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 9
Songwriting: 8
Originality: 8
Production: 7


Written on 06.03.2021 by I'm the reviewer, and that means my opinion is correct.


Comments: 4   Visited by: 65 users
06.03.2021 - 07:22
Completely missed this one. Will give it a go.
Serenity is no longer wishing you had a different past.

2021 goodies
06.03.2021 - 13:31

Did anyone say Death?? count me int, thanks.
06.03.2021 - 15:56

Written by RaduP on 06.03.2021 at 07:22

Completely missed this one. Will give it a go.

yeah I need to give this a listen after reading the review
16.03.2021 - 18:04
I quite enjoyed this for how "playful" it got, which I don't usually expect from proggy sludge. Particularly appreciated the vocal variety on display here. The review pretty much encapsulates what this album feels like.
You are the hammer, I am the nail
building a house in the fire on the hill

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