There comes certain moments in bands’ careers when they decide to lay down the gauntlet, shooting for the stars with an eye on achieving musical immortality. Baltimore’s Exist are only on their third album, but with Egoiista, they have accomplished something quite brilliant; a dense and heady puzzle, a musical jigsaw that has been handed over with too many pieces to fit together.
Egoiista is Prog with a capital ‘P’. There are fusion solos, cosmic, psychedelic artwork and more than one ten minute long track. There are no attempts at pop songwriting, such as those that even the most experimental of acts like The Dillinger Escape Plan would have thrown into their tracklistings. No, Egoiista is a work of thick, weighty musical adventurousness, one that practically begs you to lose patience with its digressions and flights of fancy.
None of which is to say that it’s not a metal album. Lead single ‘Infinite Monkey Theorem’ recalls two of the nineties finest prog metal acts, Cynic and Atheist, overlaid with some Chuck Schuldiner-esque vocals. Its brilliant back half then goes very Dillinger, all jazzy leads and oblique time changes. Penultimate track ‘Spotlight’s Glow’ is also extremely heavy, with mathy riffs and more structural changes than most of the influences ever managed within the space of a single song.
Although these iconic bands have all been mentioned as points of reference, Exist are not pastiche artists. They do fit into the prog genre (they haven’t quite transcended genres in the way that for example Cynic did) however their adventurousness pays off, and the band reap enough rewards through it for them to claim as their own. The deeply strange ambient track ‘Last Fight Looming’ echoes the work of the late composer Johan Johansson, all mysterious diving sounds like alien whales breaching the surface of our reality. ‘Siblings Born Into Different Dimensions’ stays at a pensive, mid-tempo crawl, disarming for its apparent simplicity, and all the more bold for it.
The strongest tracks are the ones that contain the largest concoction of all of Exist’s many influences. ‘The Lottery’ is fantastic, and is the track where Exist manage to slip through their many modes with the greatest ease, with each of its many changes in rhythm and tone feeling natural and elegant. The aforementioned ‘Infinite Monkey Theorem’ is also a highlight; an exhilarating tour de force on both a cerebral and visceral level. This is exactly what prog metal should aim for, something that tugs on both the synapses and heart strings.
An ambitious technical marvel, Egoiista is a work of great vision, a wild trek across a musical universe rich with infinite possibilities. It should see Exist deservedly rise to the upper echelons of the contemporary progressive metal scene, and who knows where beyond that.
Egoiista is out now via Prosthetic Records. Purchase the record here.