ExocrineThis album belies the fact that it is this French band’s debut release. I was surprised to learn this after listening to “Unreal Existence”. Heavily progressive and specialising in technical and complex patterns, it has real purpose. Fire comes in from all directions. Such an explosion of ideas inevitably leads to irregularity but the interesting thing is that in spite of the irregularity, intense technicality and bone-jarring heaviness, it manages to be fluid. “World in Fire” is typically fast and flows like an angry river but also slows down and meanders into excursions of technical trickery. “Medusa’s Embrace” follows with more blazing technical death metal. It’s fresh, furious and dynamic and occasionally obscure, as it is on “Voynich Manuscript Part I”. The progressive side of Exocrine is on show for Part II which follows, as growly death metal bumps into the celestial element which I’d associate with Pagan’s Mind and the technicality of Zero Hour. The rare quiet passage almost had a jazz feel, but this is not the core Exocrine. This album kept me on my toes. It’s got plenty of surprises but at the heart of it all is its intensity.

The drummer sets a vigorous pace and technicality is dished out in generous quantities. Because of its intensity, “Unreal Existence” was never going to be a happy affair but it was only when we got to “The Blood for a Crown Part II” near the end that I appreciated the impenetrable darkness in the exotic mix. So too “The Last Council” present swathes of blackness.

All in all, “Unreal Existence” has plenty of blood and thunder and it’s real “hearts on sleeves” stuff. Maybe it’s a bit fragmented but this goes with the technically progressive territory, and if Exocrine held anything back here, it certainly doesn’t show.

(8.5/10 Andrew Doherty)