Release Date: August 4th 2018
INEXILE are a hard-hitting grunge rock/metal power trio based in Christchurch, New Zealand. After forming in 2013 over a bond of heavy music, they embarked on a five year period of performing and writing original material. In 2018, they decided to take the plunge and make a concrete mark on their local music scene by recording and releasing their debut EP. The resulting self-titled product showcases a talented and technically-proficient trio of musicians who are markedly clear of their strong sonic identity.
One of the band’s biggest selling points becomes immediately apparent through the opening bars of ‘Bleat’; their fantastic sense of musicianship and innovation. The four bar opening riff features a tempo change from 3/4 to 7/4. Whilst unconventional, it’s an ingenious move and a true testament to the values of the group. However, the complex rhythm of this riff is contrasted with its relatively basic harmony, which shows that the band have a full understanding of the needs of the track and don’t look to overcomplicate things unnecessarily. Particular praise goes to vocalist/guitarist Blake Johns for some fantastic lead guitar work; he makes use of large bends, tremolo picking and hammer-ons/pull-offs to craft a virtuosic, yet musically sound pair of guitar solos. The track also features a great halftime section, which is something the band use as a signature trait. This allows Johns to showcase some greater variety in his vocal melody and serves as a great contrast to the main riff.
‘Headup’ features a wonderfully-written drum track from drummer Sean Seyb-Scott. His part is certainly lively and impressive, yet serves as a solid form of infrastructure to uphold the momentum and expertly guide the band through a variety of rhythmic twists and turns. This shows that whilst the drum part is complex in nature, Seyb-Scott has clearly kept the song’s arrangement and delivery at the forefront of his mind whilst writing his part, once again showcasing a fantastic sense of musicianship. The track also features a great use of backing vocals in the chorus, which adds a real presence to the material and aids in filling out the midrange of their sound. This is a ball I’d very much urge the band to continue to pick up and run with as it excellently suits their genre and adds a new dimension to their sound.
‘No Reasons Live Forever’ opens with a more pop-influenced chord progression and a catchy octave riff, which serves as the perfect foundation for the more reflective and introspective lyrical content. At this point, my attention turns to the band’s adherence to the power trio format, which is overall very effective. Johns’ rhythm guitar tones are full-bodied and beefy, yet not overly distorted. This enables his guitar tracks to carry a bit of extra weight and truly stand out within the arrangements. Bassist Ryan Franicevic makes use of slightly distorted and trebly bass tones, which excellently fill out the midrange when Johns’ switches from rhythm to lead and truly benefit the band’s signature hard-hitting sound. The power trio format would also allow room for Franicevic to open up his parts melody-wise, which is something I’d very much encourage him to do, particularly in the halftime sections of many of the tracks. Seyb-Scott also does a fantastic job of filling out the midrange by making use of tightly-tuned toms and a range of innovative drum fills. The backing vocals showcased in the previous track would also continue to fill out the midrange whilst adding a new sense of presence to their material, which is once again something I’d hope they pursue further and look to prioritise in a live setting.
‘Scream’ opens with a hard-hitting riff and thundering toms, before settling into a more laid back grunge-influenced groove. My attention turns to Johns’ vocal delivery across the EP, which is excellent. Whilst his vocal tracks are powerful and confident throughout, he effectively tailors his delivery to suit the arrangement. Many of the verses are Cobain-influenced and melancholic, before including screamed sections over much heavier sections. This again shows a brilliant understanding of arranging and shows the band prioritise the songs themselves over their own technical abilities. I also notice at this point that many of their songs are quite long and feature extended instrumental sections, with the shortest track standing at 4:33 and the longest standing at 6:16. Whilst this adheres to the band’s style and works fantastically well on the album, the band may find it difficult to promote lengthier material on social media and streaming services. As a result, it wouldn’t hurt for the band to consider making a series of radio edits for the singles in order to entice potential fans into listening to the full EP.
‘Come Again’ follows a similar vein to the previous track, featuring some fantastic riff work and a set of interesting rhythmic changes. At this point, it’s abundantly clear that the band have an incredibly well-channeled and thoroughly-focused sonic identity. Many bands struggle to find their genre and signature traits on their debut release, which results in an album that hops from genre to genre and shows a limited sense of their strengths and abilities. INEXILE are a band who are overtly aware of their genre and showcase a range of signature traits, including halftime sections, hard hitting riffs and complex rhythms. This is thoroughly impressive and I’m very much looking forward to seeing how the band choose to further develop their sonic identity over their next few releases.
‘Just Admit’ is another more laid-back track which makes some fantastic use of ambient guitar harmonics, which is something I’d love to see more of across the band’s material. Particular praise goes to the coda section at the end of the track, which is introduced by a strong octave guitar riff before launching into a hard-hitting chant of ‘you are alone’ by Johns. My awareness turns to the EP’s production, which is overall very good. All instruments are well-recorded and it’s clear the band have taken the necessary time to source appropriate tones and takes at the source. The mixing and mastering also adheres to their genre well and is very effective; all levels and frequencies are well-balanced and there’s a consistent feel to the production from track to track, resulting in a very cohesive final product.
The EP rounds off with the six minute epic ‘Ship Wreck’, which excellently recapitulates the best of the band’s signature traits. Everything from half time sections, to strong vocal melodies, to complex rhythms are reprised and it serves as a very confident and ambitious ending to a solid and well-executed debut EP. Ultimately, the track left me wanting to hear more from the band and I’m excited to see where they choose to venture on their next release. Their sonic identity is excellently-developed and the band are clearly meticulous, hard working and very driven with what they do. Highly recommended for any fans of progressive rock, classic rock, metal or gunge.