Exanimis – Marionnettiste

Marionnettiste Album Cover Art

Exanimis – Marionnettiste
Klonosphere Records
Release Date: 05/03/2021
Running Time: 65:39
Review by Steven Hooke
7/10

With origins rooted in French contemporary music training centre, the Music Academy International, Exanimis is a symphonic death metal collective seeking to combine the energy and aggression of death metal, with the flair and pomp of a full orchestra.

The worlds of symphonic metal and extreme metal combining is not exactly a foreign concept, in fact just the term “symphonic death metal” should bring to the forefront the likes of Fleshgod Apocalypse and Septicflesh, but something that seems to be a struggle for newer bands of the genre is creating that perfect balance of metal and orchestra. Often the emphasis goes into the metal side of things, with the “symphony” sounding like a cheap riff on setting Synth_05 on a Casio keyboard (looking at you early 2010’s deathcore), but Exanimis have knocked that part of their sound out of the park on the first attempt. The orchestration on the French outfit’s debut is exquisite, steadily building drama, peaking and spiking to make a song feel more dangerous, subtle world-building arrangements to back narrations and interludes, all the while never once letting the metal fall too far back in the mix.

Album standout ‘Throne Of Thorns’ perfectly encapsulates all of this. Adding wonderful accents to the introductory drum rolls, the flairs of brass throughout, the forte explosions in the chorus, the vocal harmonising , which may in fact be the best part of the song that becomes a bit of a detriment to the album. Vocalist Alexandre Dervieux largely operates in one dynamic throughout the album which would be perfectly fine were this an out-and-out death metal album, but since this album is so indebted to a symphonic arrangement, it feels like it needs more vocal variety (excluding the spoken word parts). It’s a dynamic that helped Fleshgod Apocalypse standout so much in their breakthrough, that clash of styles between Rossi and Paoli (and previously Rossi and Riccardi). The one dynamic approach isn’t completely impossible, Septicflesh vocalist Spiros Antoniou utilises a low, guttural grumble in the same vein as Dervieux, by there are lighter elements to broaden and counterbalance the Septicflesh sound, such as stringed instrument pirouettes and vocal choirs, both executed tremendously on “Marionnettiste”, thanks to collaborations with Maxime Poirot and Lorine Pauget, respectively.

“Marionnettiste” does venture into stage musical territory from time-to-time which may divide opinion, particularly in the two latter-half epics, ‘Cogs, Gears & Clockworks’ and ‘Cathedral’. The steampunk apocalypse ‘Cogs…’ utilises a music hall-esque three-bar beat to give it that stage show feel, which in turns fits nicely thematically, as the lyrics count-down to existential doomsday. ‘Cathedral’ is an absolute meal of a song, clocking in at over 16 minutes and tells a fantastical tale, stretching across several acts and peaking into the worlds of power metal and progressive metal. Both tracks boast impressive orchestral arrangements, but do suffer from the same ailments that plague the album as a whole, with the metal elements trailing behind the symphonic elements in creativity. The riffs, similarly to the vocals, largely operate in a very small range, inevitably becoming a little samey, and generally lost in the grandiosity in the accompanying symphonies. Even the drum work (contributed by Fractal Universe drummer Clément Denys) keeps up and matches the energy of the orchestral ensemble, and does so marvellously.

Overall, this is a great attempt of a herculean ask from the young musicians. It almost feels like they threw so much attention into getting the symphony parts right, that they overlooked the core metal components instead (which is usually the opposite of what happens). Should Exanimis pour more of that creativity, that they very clearly have, into the death metal portion of their sound, then we’ll be onto something truly special. They already possess a better mix than a lot of other newer faces to the symphonic extreme metal world, and the look and aesthetic of the band will translate so well to a live setting. Surely there must be some room left at HellFest right?

Cogs, Gears & Clockworks (Official Video)

TRACKLISTING:
01. Prélude du Songe Avant le Cauchemar
02. The Wrathful Beast
03. Throne Of Thorns
04. Stampede Of The 10000
05. Entracte du Sommeil Pendant le Cauchemar
06. Cogs, Gears & Clockworks
07. The Slow Flow Of The Spume On The Shore
08. Cathedral
09. Épilogue du Songe Après le Cauchemar

LINE-UP:
Alexandre Dervieux – Vocals, Guitars
Julien Marzano – Guitars
Julien Prost – Bass

LINKS:

Exanimis Promo Pic

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