Existential Animals [USA]
Technical Death Metal
With the beautiful, yet haunting artwork on Existential Animals‘ debut EP Surrealith by Paolo Girardi, I almost expected this to be yet another one of those atmospheric, yet crushing death metal releases. Yet the band has proven themselves to be a rather unique death metal band in that their releases thus far have been completely instrumental, with Surrealith containing the band’s first forays into more “normal” death metal with vocals.
When the notion of instrumental death metal is mentioned, one’s first instinctive reaction is to bring comparisons to other recent instrumental death metal efforts, and most prominently Conquering Dystopia‘s recent release. From Vitreous Vale, this comparison is quickly drawn, as each of the band members on Existential Animals prove their talents on their instruments. The riffs and fretboard acrobatics presented by Mark easily remind one of Jeff Loomis‘ works on Conquering Dystopia, and on tracks like The Zanclean Deluge, one can even hear some similarities to the aforementioned’s solo works with the heavy riffs that accompany the lead guitars.
The band mentions The Faceless as one of the largest influences in their songwriting, and the quirkiness that is presented on Surrealith certainly shines through and is one of the main captivating points of the band. Apart from the sheer technical brilliance that is displayed, there is a sense of progressiveness in the songwriting as well, and even on shorter tracks like Vitreous Vale, the band easily brings the listener through different states of mind, yet retaining that sense of cohesion throughout. Oneironaut shows how the band does not shy away from any instruments at all, as the synths on the track provide a nice haunting accompaniment at the background, as well as some slight neoclassical influences of the band.
Stalked Vestige is the band’s first attempt to include vocals in their music, and it is immediately obvious how this changes the entire feel of Existential Animals‘ craft. With the vocals, one is reminded of bands like Deeds of Flesh or Suffocation, with the nice balance between technicality and brutality, yet remaining so infectiously powerful for the listener. Unlike the other instrumental tracks, with the powerful vocals of Will Smith (of Artificial Brain), the guitars are put into the background as the gurgling vocals that remind one of Demilich take centre-stage here. While different, the track puts a refreshing touch to the band’s music, at the same time displaying their songwriting versatility.
For a short EP of 5 tracks, Existential Animals has shown their potential for even greater things after Surrealith. While my personal favourite would have to be Stalked Vestige with the death vocals, it would be great to have Existential Animals continuing their current style of instrumental death metal, allowing them to stand out from the countless newer death metal acts of late.
Favourite picks: The Zanclean Deluge, Stalked Vestige