Progressive metalcore seems to have taken on quite the ambiguous meaning in the past few years and, in a sense, it is rightfully deserved. Bands that are labeled as such can span from the creative and excellent songwriting abilities of Between the Buried and Me to simple yet groovy heaviness such as Volumes. Minnesota’s Reflections has broken on to the scene in recent years under the latter label and has just released their second full-length album – titled Exi(s)t – which is being released via Good Fight Entertainment. Considering the amount of technical ability displayed by Reflections with their work before this release, I was definitely excited to listen to their take on another full length record.
The first track, titled “Exit,” left me with mixed emotions. The first thing I noticed was an almost overwhelming amount of chugging. There were glimpses of technicality that did catch my ear – and they were most certainly impressive, as was the drumming and vocals. The problem is the way they are portraying the chugging and breakdown-ish segments as their answer for a verse riff in several ways. I’m not against chugging an open chord, personally, but overuse of that single concept does get old very quickly, and through “Exit,” I was already nervous as to how the rest of the record would shape up.
The second track, “Delirium,” left me feeling similarly dissatisfied; however, once the third track came around, titled “Vain Words from Empty Minds,” the feeling took almost a full 180. “Vain Words...” had almost a Danza-ish feel to it, with segments that felt really well written and placed. The chorus, featuring some refreshing clean vocals that you might find in a Volumes track, was a very nice touch to part the bouts of technicality and put some soul into the album a bit – something the record had been lacking to that point.
The pressing matter with this record is its technicality, it seems. The guitarists make their presence known one way or another with some interesting arpeggios, but at the same time, Exi(s)t does little aside from slightly altering guitar scales and rampant chugging. Songs like “Delirium” and “Bridges” don’t offer enough separation from that mold to make them worthwhile on the record, in my opinion. Luckily, the latter half of the record offers some well-needed transitions into more synthesized and lighter realms, as well as some more small segments of clean vocals, which are much appreciated. Several of the latter songs, most notably “Lost Pages” and “This House,” show off significantly different song structure and direction compared to the first few songs, and it’s definitely a refreshing change of pace.
Overall, Exi(s)t is a two-headed beast. One side (the first four tracks) holds a level of aggressive chugging and instrumentation that, aside from “Vain Words...,” is virtually soulless in execution. As much as I enjoy both heavy grooves and great skill, used in that way didn’t offer any form of hook for the listener to catch on. The other head (the last six tracks), offers riffs and vocal work being both technical and accessible, which is a remarkably difficult feat in its own right. Personally, I found Exi(s)t to be worth the listen just for the second half, but if you need something heavy to dance to, the first half of it is still right up your alley.
For Fans Of: Volumes, The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza, Uneven Structure, Erra